Saturday, May 1, 2010

Where Do Fiction Writers Get Their Ideas?

Often upon hearing such a question, a fiction writer will think "Where don't you get story ideas from?" The reason for this is there are story ideas all over the place, often right in front of you.

Newspapers, magazines, books, television, the Internet, any medium can offer thousands upon thousands of ideas for a story. And it doesn't matter what genre you're writing in. The ideas are out there.

The truth is professional writers will often come upon the kernel of a story and not have a clue what to do with it, not at first. Then they'll mentally ask "What if?" And sometimes it's just a matter of putting two separate thoughts together to come up with an idea.

For example, say you're at the doctor's office in the waiting room. You're perusing a magazine and come upon a story about great places to fish. Okay, no big whoop. Where's the story idea there? Well, what if several of those great places to fish also happened to be near industrial plants? Hmm. Think. Think. What can you come up with? Monster fish! Okay. Stretch it a little further. Monster fish that are seeking revenge against the fishermen! And there you've got a story. Sounds like horror, but maybe you could turn it into something else, science fiction or fantasy.

Need another idea? Okay, you're online looking around at Wikipedia. You randomly pick a couple of articles. Up pops the first article. It's about the Voynich manuscript, an undeciphered book of what appears to be words and drawings, that was first discovered in about the 15th century in Europe. No one to this day has been able to figure out what this manuscript is about because it seems to be in some kind of secret language. Okay, you randomly seek another Wikipedia article. Up pops a page about the Gearing class destroyers, battle ships first used by the U.S. Navy toward the end of World War II. So, try to make up something that connects the Voynich manuscript with one of the Gearing class destroyers. Sounds difficult? Nah! There's a hundred ways to do it. Maybe some Nazi spies have stolen the Voynich manuscript and believe it is an ancient treatise on some kind of an unknown energy, something like a super laser, and one of the Gearing ships is chasing down the Nazis in order to save the world. Or maybe a seaman aboard one of the ships goes to an island near Japan and discovers a codex similar to the Voynich manuscript; the mystery ensues because the two manuscripts are so similar but were found hundreds of years and thousands of miles apart.

See? It's really that easy. Ask yourself "What if?"

What if someone could throw a baseball all the way to the moon? What if a knight from the Middle Ages fell in love with a Muslim princess during the Crusades? What if a car suddenly sprouted wings and could fly like a giant insect?

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