Thursday, February 25, 2010

Question Time—From Whence Do Your Ideas Flow?

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling rather brain dead and asked for your help. And of course, you guys are awesome and totally came through for me with some great suggestions. I'm feeling much less brain dead now. Though I don't think it will ever completely go away. ;) A few of you asked questions. I won't address them all in one post, but I'll get started on them today, at least.

Tere Kirkland asked:

Where do your ideas come from?

I'm pretty random when it comes to this. There are things in my stories that come from my own personal experience. Like, for some reason, every story I've started thus far has involved a parent dying. I know this stems from the death of my own mother and how much it changed who I am and my perception of the world, but usually, it's not intentional. That's just where the story always goes on its own. I'm working on that. There needs to be a little more variety in my storylines.

The idea for Embrol, which so far, is the only one I've followed through to the end, has been a combined effort between my husband and me. Especially the first draft. He's awesome for brainstorming when I'm stuck on something and very good at pointing out when I'm veering off in the wrong direction.

I grew up the oldest of four girls, which meant our house was girly central 24/7 and the land of hormones. Lots of drama in my house. It drove me crazy. I've never considered myself a tomboy, but I've always abhorred lace and ruffles and for the longest time I wanted nothing to do with anything pink. Now that I'm older, I'm finding that I like those things more in small amounts, especially having girls of my own. But when I was young, I preferred listening to rock music with my dad and reading JRR Tolkein or the Sunday comics—LOVED the Sunday comics. I never had any interest in Sweet Valley High or The Babysitters Club, though my sisters loved those books.

When I met my husband—the oldest of three boys—I was introduced to a whole new world of superheroes and action movies. I still enjoy a good tearjerker once in a while, but I love the evolution of a superhero, and the idea of discovering new powers and capabilities beyond what is considered normal. Of course, there has to be a romantic element, too. :)

So, I guess, in a roundabout way, that's how I came up with the idea for Embrol. It's all about Olivia's struggle to find herself after she loses her mother, while trying to accept her new role as protector of Earth and understand her connection to Jack, the boy responsible for her mother's death, and how that relationship affects almost every aspect of her life. It's definitely more complicated now than how it started out.

I have a few other ideas for stories jotted down in the little notebook I keep in my purse. Nothing developed, just little sparks from things I've seen or heard. My most recent idea came the other night when I was watching TV. No, not LOST, though that's one of the few things I watch these days. And I think I have the whole switching back and forth thing figured out, but I'll keep that to myself. :) The story idea actually came from a twenty second portion of a series premier we were watching. I can't even remember the name of the show. But it was incredible how that one little trigger inspired a whole storyline. It all just unfolded in my head as I sat there not really watching the rest of the show. So awesome when that happens.

Well, that got a little long-winded. :) Guess I'll save the rest for next Thursday.

What about all of you? Where do your ideas come from?


  1. This is an interesting post about you, Abby. Nice to know you're into cool stuff like superheroes. Now you just have to post a picture of you dressed up as your favorite one.

    As for my ideas, they usually pop in at the most random moments. And there is no real "normal" reason I have the ideas I do. Maybe it's my diet. Y'know, eat a cheeseburger, have an idea involving cows. Who knows?

  2. I agree with Eric--it's cool to get to know more about you! :)

    My idea for LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS actually started half as a writing prompt in college (wow, that was forever ago!) and also brainstorming sessions with my husband :). I was also heavily influenced by 80s fantasy movies. (FALCOOOOOR!)

  3. I love moments like that--the unfolding of a story. (Great words btw!)

    I get ideas from everywhere--songs, dreams, people, turns of phrase. It's all fodder, baby!

  4. What, no flying monkeys? ;)

    Love how a few minutes of a tv program can serve as inspiration for a whole novel. That happened to me while I was watching college gymnastics in March 2007. I turned to my husband and said:

    "Wouldn't it be cool if someone took a bunch of gymnasts and made them into assassins?" We joked about it for a while, but I liked the idea of taking a group of gymnasts and turning their lives upside-down.

    Of course, since I write fantasy, I didn't make them assassins, so that idea's still up for grabs if anyone wants it, I just found the idea to be a little too Charlie's Angels to me. The current incarnation is much, much better.

    Thanks for telling us more about your writing life!

  5. It's so interesting how our childhoods form us as writers. Stephen King talks about it some in his book "On Writing". I grew up in a perfect little pink bubble with unicorns and My Little Pony. So my stories all need more darkness and depth to them. It's something that I've been working on.

  6. Interesting post! I think the best ideas come from real life. Which means it must be lived in order to get the best ideas. So that's what I try to do.

  7. Great post! :)

    My ideas are a combination of my real life (that seems to be fictional), dreams, and the voices in my head.

    Okay, now that I read that again, it sounds like I need to be in a ward.

  8. Eric: Me, as a superhero? Um, yeah, that's not going to happen. Trust me, no one wants to see that. And I love that you can get inspiration from a cheesburger. :)

    Becca: I LOVE The Neverending Story! That was my all-time favorite movie when I was a kid. Well, that and The Last Unicorn. I've seen them both like fifty times.

    L.T.: Thanks! How does that saying go? You better be nice to me or I'll put you in my novel, or something like that. :)

    Tere: I don't know why, but I just can't come up with anything involving flying monkeys. I must have a mental block or something against them. ;) I'm looking forward to reading that gymnast story.

    Aubrie: I think all the unicorns and My Little Ponies in my pink bubble actually made me seek out dark things. Just my way of rebelling, I guess. :)

    Elana: I agree. If we can draw on our own experiences, it makes for a much better story.

    Tiffany: I thought the need to be in a ward was a requirement for a writer. ;)

  9. Could you explain the whole switching back and forth thing on Lost to me? My husband and I were just discussing last night how we're ready to give up on that show because we're both, well, lost.

    As for my ideas, I think I pick out things I like in other movies/books/etc. and figure out how I can turn that same type of situation around into my own unique idea.

  10. My ideas come straight from my characters. One of them mugs me in a dark alleyway. Generally they have a face, a name, and a personality, but they don't always let me in on those at first. >.<

  11. Interesting superhero info!

    My ideas come from all over the place- you never know where or when inspiration will strike!

  12. I think that, as writers, we are conduits for stories that are waiting to be told. However, the water flowing through (the story flowing through, I guess you could say) is going to pick up things along the way. Sometimes I'll read through my stuff and be shocked at the things that come out because of how connected they are to me personally, which was never my intention. It's kind of odd, really ...