Thursday, April 24, 2008

Generating Story Ideas

Well, I said I preferred writing short stories but sometimes the ideas dry up. Then I ask my husband and he invariably suggests something that just won't work for me. His ideas are always conceptual--for instance, last night he suggested that I write a story where suddenly homosexual men and women are able to give birth and what's the impact of that on society. You can see he's a theorist, can't you.
For me though, story ideas never come from such a big concept. They usually come when the first line of a story mysteriously pops into my head. Or when I see something going on in front me that's interesting.
What about you? How do ideas come to you?
Is it ever the big idea of my husbands? Is it usually based on a real life event or something smaller.
This line popped into my head last night and I'll begin this story today. ---Georgie comes for me at 8:30 every morning.--- I don't know who Georgie is or why he comes but I'll find out soon.
It's a start.


John McFetridge said...

Good question.

I usually think of Francis Ford Coppola's comment that the idea is the question - can love really overcome all, do opposites really attract, how the hell did I end up here... He then said you make the movie to find out the answer. The punchline is, "You try and tell that to the money guys."

But I think it works for books. If you have a question that really interests you, then you can throw plenty of characters and situations and approach it from as many angles as you want. Till you get closer to an answer you're happy with.

This is what I do, anyway. I started my novel Dirty Sweet with the question, How come some people see opportunity everywhere and others don't recognize opportunity when it smacks them in the face? You may not be able to tell that was the question that started the book, but it was something I used as a crutch everytime my enthusiasm and energy flagged.

I realized a long time ago plots are overrated and not nearly as necessary as we think.

(or maybe that's just my justification - whatever :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think you nailed it. It works for books. Or I thought it did. Can't wait to read that book.

Josephine Damian said...

I'm a big believer in quiet time, especially in the morning. No TV, radio, and on writing days, no Internet - you keep your head empty and it fills up with ideas.

Not a big a big believer in looking outside myself for ideas.

Like your "Georgie" they pop into my head when I'm the least preoccupied and if I'm smart, I write them down. I'm at the age where if I don't write them down, I just might forget it for good!

pattinase (abbott) said...

And I can't tell you how many ideas have gone to that dusty closet on the top floor.

Clair Dickson said...

The two things that bring me the most story ideas are "Why?" and "What if?"

So if I watch TV or read something, I might see a story about, say, a house broken into and I wonder "Why?" that leads to who did it, then I create a character, and build the world outwards. Sometimes the magic works, sometimes, it's another started-story in the collection.

The police blotter is GREAT for me!

I also get ideas from lines (like your example) and from phrases. Purely random things that pop into my head. I run with them for a while, see if they spin out into a story or just spin out like top running out.

Ed Gorman said...

Evan Hunter/Ed McBain once said that he never examined his writing process carefully because he was afraid he'd become self-conscious and the well would dry up. Though it's damned strange the various ways ideas come to us, isn't it?w.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It similar for writers, I guess, but try to explain it to someone who doesn't write and it sounds weird and self-absorbed. I can imagine them thinking, well sure I could write too if I just sat back and let ideas flow over me. Or does it count if it comes to you like a dream?

Josephine Damian said...

Patti: TGIF! I'm in!