I read a lot of interviews about my favorite authors. One question that everyone seems to love to ask is “where do you get your ideas?” The most common answers are “Oh, one night I had this awesome dream…” or “Well my main characters are a lot like my friends…”
Perhaps I work in strange ways, but I never get ideas like that. To be honest, I never get ideas through a set way.
The very first book I managed to finish (don’t look for it; I never bothered trying to market it. It has a loooong way to go before it’s ready to see the light of day) I started when I was in my ninth grade English class. We were listening to songs from some of Shakespeare’s plays. I ended up with a song from Midsummer Night’s Dream. I wrote this beautiful scene about a fairy ball and a young queen presiding over all. It turned into a play, which later developed into a novel.
The next one I worked on, A Captive Mind, sprung partly from that. It was intended to be the sequel to that first book, but it took on a mind of its own. To be honest, the initial drafts were pretty much a rip off of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study and some other books I was reading at the time. But hey, immature poets imitate, mature poets steal. I may not have been a poet, but I was definitely immature at the time. And really, that’s how all writers learn to write well. Even Stephen King admits to his early works being blatant ripoffs of dime show movies.
I started a book that was following the daughter of Zee and Vedo from A Captive Mind, but their daughter is an unbearable brat. I didn’t get very far with it. And it’s story line was pretty close to that movie Enchanted. Luckily by that point, though, I was pretty past the point of imitating other story lines. So it got tossed before I finished chapter four.
My newest project, Stealing the Crown, probably has the most interesting beginnings. I follow this web comic called Roommates. It has Jareth the Goblin King (Labyrinth), Erik (Phantom of the Opera), James Norrington (Pirates of the Carribean), and Javert (Les Miserables) living in the same apartment building. Jareth and Erik live together, and Norrington and Javert live across the hall. There’s also a host of other crossover characters popping in and out and living in the building, including Sweeney Todd, Legolas, Harry Dresden, Tallahassee, Aziraphael and Crowley, Eponine…
Anyways, it’s a pretty awesome comic. Highly entertaining, and a super intense arc going on right now. At the beginning of the last really long arc, we found out that Jamie’s (James Norrington) mom was coming to visit. She doesn’t know about the events in the second Pirate’s movie. She thinks he’s still Commador, still engaged to Elizabeth, and still successful. She doesn’t know that he’s actually pretty full of fail. I’d made a comment to the artist that it’ll be interesting to see what happens when his mum finds out he’s dating a thief, Eponine (it’s a crossover comic; the connections made will surprise you). Actually, I stated it as “Oh boy. Wait until his mom finds out he’s dating a… What does ‘Pony do, anyway?” The response I received was “…Economic redistribution? That’s the nicest way I can think to say it.”
I fell in love with the phrase and begged to use it. The artist gave me the go ahead, and I jotted it down in my little pocket notebook for future use.
After working longer on A Captive Mind and beginning to get bored with it, I started thinking about other ideas I could run with for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I recalled that phrase, and a thief character I was currently working with in a roleplay site. What better idea! A plotline started forming in my head of a thief that has to rescue a princess. Economic redistribution is what he tells her he deals in.
After my failed attempt at NaNo, I put away the idea for a while, focusing on A Captive Mind for a little longer. I’d been working on it forever, and I needed to get stuff done. But after talking with different publishing professionals and realizing how stale Zee’s book was getting, I came back to Ethan’s. And it’s been a ride.
The point of this rambling post is that ideas can come from anywhere. You don’t have to have a fantastic story for how you even came up with your story. It should be good enough to speak for itself. A good writer knows how to keep their ears and mind open, and draw experiences from the world around them. Good writing comes from real experiences. That is how an audience connects to a fictional character. You just need to learn how to be receptive and how to translate those events into entertaining prose.