Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting Ideas

Some lucky feckers out there (*cough* Paul Anthony Shortt *cough*) seem to get a new book idea every fifteen or twenty minutes.

Some of us (*cough* me *cough*) are not quite as fortunate, but feel blessed to have found we finally have something in common with the coolness that is Hannah Moskowitz (she says, in her FAQ, "Some writers have too many ideas. I never have enough. I spend a lot of time shaking my head really hard and hoping something good comes together [ . . . ] It's definitely the hardest part of the process for me.").

Around this time of year, I'm always on the lookout for an idea for Nanowrimo. Some years, I start with avery vague picture in my head. Last year, this picture was o a young woman chasing supernatural creatures through a rainy city at night. The rainy city became Dublin, the supernatural creatures became fairies and my heroine never once chased them at night. Funny how these things turn out :)

And sometimes I start with far more detail. Oddly, these years tend to work out badly compared to the years when I start with a single idea, image or remark.

But when I start looking for ideas, I find that they're everywhere. Last Friday was Culture Night, when cultural institutions all over Ireland stay open late and don't charge admission. I finally made it into a certain landmark (a personal ambition - I'd had no idea it was so easy) and that sparked an idea. A throwaway comment on TV sparked another idea.

Suddenly I have two book ideas pending. This never happens.

I may even need to buy a notebook for them. OK, at the moment there will only be two pages filled. But it's something! I'm surprised how many ideas appeared once I started looking for them.

What's the weirdest way you've ever gotten an idea?


  1. A throwaway comment is a great way to build a storyline. It is amazing how inspiration strikes a writer. I was on a plane in the middle of a turbulent moment, when I got an idea for a Victorian girl in a hotel room. Just the sort of thing you think of when a plane is bouncing up and down! :D I hope it is the NaNoWriMo story for this year.

  2. I'm sorry.... :-) If it helps, whenever I consciously try to come up with ideas, I'm often stumped.

    I once got an idea for a book while listening to Riverdance. Would you believe that character eventually became the protagonist for my novel?

  3. My favourite idea, for a book I've never finished (yet), was when a bus passed me as I was walking along the pavement. On the top deck, looking out, was a girl who looked exactly like a younger version of me.

  4. Glynis, I'm not sure how you got from a turbulent plane to a Victorian hotel room but it really does show how mysterious the process is! I hope it does work for Nano, I love Victorian stories and we can never have too many of them :)

    Paul, was that Nathan? I can't see him kicking his legs up in a line on stage :p

    Sarah, that's very weird. I have one of those faces, I always get mistaken for other people. Somewhere out there I have a few doubles - I'd love to know what their stories are. I think there's a brilliant book in that idea.

  5. I got the idea that would glue together my third WiP (the one I'll be doing for NaNo) from a computer game. ;-)

  6. Cool :) The only computer games I play are Mahjongg solitaire and Tetris so I'd get quite weird book ideas from those :)

    Good luck with Nano!

  7. Seeing a tattoed guy qualifies as an odd way to get ideas. He had tattooes on his arms and face. I first thought, "who'd want to hire him?" Then I thought, "there's a character."


I love comments!