Hey, There's An Idea

I named a character after a friend from college. I used another friend's experience on a cleanse diet as inspiration for a scene involving a magic potion. I added a demon to that movie premise. A bottle of wine inspired a major plot element--and not because I was drunk. A dream inspired another cool element.

These are a few examples of where I get my ideas. Truth is, writers can find inspiration anywhere and from anything. Sit me in a blank room with nothing interesting to look at, and I'll create a story about the dead fly the windowsill or about a woman who loses her mind from boredom.

I've always created stories in my head. It's the result of being one of those easily bored kids. But when I started writing fiction, I struggled with trying to figure out what to write about. Eventually, my first book was based on an idea I had while working in a museum a few years earlier.

But as I continued to write, I found that my mind became trained to look for inspiration. Now, every conversation, every experience, everything I see on TV or in the movies, is run past the idea-o-matic in my head. Each possibility is weighed and then stored away for future use. Sometimes these disparate ideas meld later on to become a Super Idea.

Writers experience life as both participant and observer. When you're hanging around a writer, you may notice at times their eyes glaze over and they seem to have retreated into their minds. That's because some ridiculous thing you said is being filed away for future use. And when you tell a writer your secrets, be prepared to have them appear in print later. This is why I wear a shirt that reads: "Warning: Anything you do may appear in my next book."

When people ask a writer where they get their ideas, the answer is "everywhere." But for some reason, non-writers seem to believe there's a secret alchemy to ideas. I suppose that's true on some level. It can seem magical and mysterious even to us. Some of it is innate, but rest is the result of training our minds to look for them. Without ideas, there's no story, so you learn very quickly to find inspiration in everything.

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