There’s a question every writer gets asked at some point – aside from “will you read my manuscript? It’s only 700 pages long, single-spaced.” That question is, “where do you get your ideas from?”
Where do you not? I say. People who aren’t writers (and there are so many secret writers out there I begin to wonder if there’s such a thing as a person who isn’t a writer) think ideas must be hard. In fact they’re the easiest part of the whole game. Good ideas are harder of course, but even a bad writer gets lots of good ideas. Writers get far more than they can ever actually turn into stories. Some of them probably aren’t worth the attempt to turn them into stories as they are too thin a premise, too much of a novelty maybe. But some grow and grow. Less like a bunny and more like a pearl, they accrete layers until suddenly there they are, a whole story.
My bunnies are often exchanges of dialogue between characters. A scene plays out in my head, I can hear them talking to each other, and that’s all there is, that one scene. Then I have to figure out a story around it “so why are the A-Team in a small boat in the middle of the ocean?” or “why are these guys stoned out of their gourds, driving a jeep along a road in Africa and dodging to avoid a hallucinatory moose? And what has The Rumble in the Jungle got to do with it?” Or, “so why is Jack Harkness asking Gene Hunt if he’s ever been to Cardiff?” Fan fiction bunnies especially tended to start this way, since I already knew the characters then I could quite easily hear them in my head having little conversations.
Others come from “what if?” ideas. The next draft I plan to write after my current one came from a what if scenario involving Osama Bin Laden! Some are even more oddly random. Liar’s Waltz came from a posting I made on the NaNoWriMo message boards, about mixing of genres. I posted that maybe one day I’d write a romantic comedy drama about the only gay bar on the moon. Of course it morphed somewhat – little comedy and it wasn’t on the moon, but that was the germ of the idea. My next book, Stowaway, has its origin in one of the albatross stories I wrote about a while back. The next draft I’m editing, currently called Higher Ground, came from a vivid dream. Though not all the elements of the dream are in it – I never found a place for the nightclub worker in the silver bowler hat. I suspect he escaped from Karl’s bar in Liar’s Waltz, though he also looked rather like a guy who works in my local Starbucks.
Bunnies are on my mind as I’ve started cooking up what I plan on writing after I finish with the current set of stories – so not for a while yet, but if I do it and it’s anything like what I’m envisaging, it will take a lot of prep work, so good to start early. I really only have a concept so far, no characters even, except maybe this guy I’m seeing in an image in my head. Young, wearing military uniform and handcuffed, thrown to the floor in front of some kind of leader, a king, or president or whatever. I don’t know who he is yet, but he appears to be in big trouble.
One day maybe we’ll know…