Thursday 25th January 2018
There’s this thought when you start out as a writer that ideas are sacred, something heaven-bourne. If you’ve not had much writing experience you can also fall into the trap of thinking an idea arrives fully realised.
“Where do you get your ideas?” many authors are asked, and the answer is everywhere. It can be something as simple as wishing the character on your favourite show did something different to their current course of action, or as complicated as taking some worn trope or concept and trying to flip it on its head.
Mine often come about by mashing two ideas together. I’ll have a half decent idea and then take something completely unrelated and work out a way to mash them together like some mad scientist stitching on random body parts.
Often it doesn’t work but sometimes it does. The sign for me it’s gold is when these mash-ups suddenly spawn ideas of their own and I can suddenly see bigger story ideas, other characters, and individual scenes. That’s when inspiration hits. That’s when I get excited and want to write something. But often it needs a lot more work.
I treat idea generation as a bit of a background task, like one of those programs that run in the background of your computer waiting for their moment to pop up. But I do know I need to feed my ideas. Reading loads, watching TV, playing games. I need to consume entertainment heavily when planning a new book. I also put my writing music on in the car on long journeys to the office or swordfighting, and just let my mind wander. You never know down which avenues of your mind you might discover part of a great idea.
As a result, I generate loads of ideas. I know some writers are really precious and keep notebooks full of every little idea. I tend to only write the ones that stick around. They don’t have to be fully realised… just something I could possibly use in the future.
At the moment, my thoughts are very much on Book 3. I’m thinking about characters and scenes. With the Shade Knight books I try to have 2 concurrent plots, one centred around the character and one around his alter-ego. And I’ll then find ways that one can influence the other and vice versa. I have a little mindmap that I’ve had for a while, linking characters and situations for one plot arc of the story. For the other I currently have nothing.
I watch a lot of Youtube on social media marketing. I think this is going to be more and more important in the future and so I’m trying to learn it now. I watch a lot of great channels that provide helpful, practical advice… but I also watch some where it’s some snake oil salesman trying to sell you his course, ebook or app that will “100% guarantee” to shortcut the process.
In secret, I love these just as much. I like looking at the psychology tricks they employ, the art of suckering people in. I’ve also re-read the first 3 DresdenFiles books this year and have been reminded how he’s on the books of the Chicago PD as a consultant.
What if, I thought (and ‘What if’ is always a sign of an idea in the making). What if someone was one of these fake mediums pretending to be able to contact the dead and suddenly found their whole livelihood at stake because they got dragged into a high profile police case. And so the story would be of them doing actual detective work in an effort to solve the case so that their medium work would not be uncovered as a fraud.
This simple idea spawned a lot of amusing scenes in my head: pretending to commune with the spirits in front of the police in order to get them to look at some thread of investigation the medium themselves already knew was of interest. I like how this twists things on its head. I think this is not just an idea for a book, it’s an idea for a series.
And I gave it away.
Yep. Kate and Craig came round to play games tonight (we did Forbidden Desert, Pandemic and Cards Against Humanity) and Kate’s been struggling with her latest novel. She’s working through ideas, swapping things out until the book is becoming something totally different to what she started out with. But this idea would fit in with something she is looking to do. We chatted about it, and she took the idea in a totally different direction to mine. She adapted it, made it her own and what she ended up with is something very different what I would have done with it.
But that’s OK, it’s just a sign that ideas are cheap and we shouldn’t fall into the trap that they are somehow precious.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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