Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Okay, so it's my turn to start in the blog chain. Archetype on QT had a good idea about blog topics: questions we want to ask other authors. Since I'm always interested in finding out how people come up with their ideas, I thought I'd start with that question.

You can find the other posts in this chain at Trying to Do the Write Thing. And we have some new bloggers in the chain, so check out the sidebar and follow the links!

Question: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

My Answer (Warning - I tend to ramble and be long-winded. Maybe that's why all my "short" stories turn into novels. Or why my word count balloons out of control...You've been warned.): I don't have dreams like some people. I wish I did. No, I stay up too late and get up too early. By the time my head hits the pillow, I'm out. Like, really out. I'm sure I dream (at least my husband says everyone does - Heather?), but I don't remember any of them. And the ones I used to remember, weren't interesting.

For me, the real place I get my ideas is from the characters in my weird and warped mind. My book, SHADOWS, came about because I wanted to write something urban fantasy, and I thought it would be cool to have a realm that existed alongside "the living." So Jon was "born" as a Shadow, existing between life and death, seeing and hearing the living, but unable to touch them. From there, it was a lot of work. I wrote what's now chapter 29 first. Yeah, starting at the beginning just doesn't work for me. Then I had to think and think and think of how to get him to chapter 29.

There was no dream. I needed more characters, more voices urging me in my head to tell their story alongside Jon's.

So I started paying attention to names I'd hear on TV, the radio, or in conversation. If there was one that struck a chord with me, I'd jot it down. I have pages of names, most of them illegible, but there you go. Sometimes that was enough to spark an idea for a character that could help me get to chapter 29. My favorite show for weird names is American Gladiators--and I have a book that uses odd, somewhat futuristic names, so I sat glued to the TV with pen in hand.

I teach school, so I took the physical characteristics of students and used them in my characters in my books. I asked boys what they like to do when they're not at school. I paid attention to what games they liked to play in the computer lab. (Cars, dinosaurs, and shooting, in case you care.)

For me, once a character was born, they wouldn't shut up in my head. Even though I tried to torture them into silence, they still shouted for their story to be written. It gives whole new meaning to "I hear voices."

Because I really do.

So for me, my ideas are born along with the characters that "live" in that book. Without them, I wouldn't be a writer.

Where do you get your ideas? Let me know! And check out the other posts in the blog chain!


Kate Karyus Quinn said...

So since you start with a character do you think that makes your final product more character rather than plot driven? Because I also usually start with character, but for me it sometimes makes plotting a struggle.

H. L. Dyer said...

How to get to Timbuktu... that is the question! :)

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

I am with Kate. I often start with a character, too -- I will write about it when it's my turn...but then I usually don't know what to do with them!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your process with us, Elena. This is a fun topic. It's interesting to look in through someone else's window. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you on the not remembering dreams thing. I never ever remember mine.

I usually start with a character first, too, and I usually have scenes that I know are going to occur somewhere in the book, but bridging those scenes is sometimes difficult. (like with your chapter 29)

Anonymous said...

Kate, my novels are very character-driven because that what drives my writing. I try to torture them as much as possible and they still keep coming back for more.

Michelle McLean said...

Ahhh, I remember my dreams all the time! From what I understand, dreams occur during REM sleep, which happens just before you wake up. And as I wake up at least 3 times a night, I have and remember a lot of vivid dreams. Most of the time it's pretty fun, and I've gotten a lot of fun story ides that way. Scary dreams though are a whole other story. Not so fun....nope.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who hears my characters voices:)

See Elana's recent blog posts

Recent Posts Widget