where do you get your ideas? #think


Just to start the year with inspiration, this is a part of a article by writer Neil Gaiman. On the eternal question: where do you get your ideas?

My daughter Holly, who is seven years of age, persuaded me to come in to give a talk to her class. Her teacher was really enthusiastic (‘The children have all been making their own books recently, so perhaps you could come along and tell them about being a professional writer. And lots of little stories. They like the stories.’) and in I came.

They sat on the floor, I had a chair, fifty seven-year-old-eyes gazed up at me. ‘When I was your age, people told me not to make things up,’ I told them. ‘These days, they give me money for it.’ For twenty minutes I talked, then they asked questions.

And eventually one of them asked it.

‘Where do you get your ideas?’

And I realized I owed them an answer. They weren’t old enough to know any better. And it’s a perfectly reasonable question, if you aren’t asked it weekly.

This is what I told them:

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.

You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?

(What if you woke up with wings? What if your sister turned into a mouse? What if you all found out that your teacher was planning to eat one of you at the end of term – but you didn’t know who?)

Another important question is, If only…

(If only real life was like it is in Hollywood musicals. If only I could shrink myself small as a button. If only a ghost would do my homework.)

And then there are the others: I wonder… (‘I wonder what she does when she’s alone…’) and If This Goes On… (‘If this goes on telephones are going to start talking to each other, and cut out the middleman…’) and Wouldn’t it be interesting if… (‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if the world used to be ruled by cats?’)…

Those questions, and others like them, and the questions they, in their turn, pose (‘Well, if cats used to rule the world, why don’t they any more? And how do they feel about that?’) are one of the places ideas come from.

An idea doesn’t have to be a plot notion, just a place to begin creating. Plots often generate themselves when one begins to ask oneself questions about whatever the starting point is.

Sometimes an idea is a person (‘There’s a boy who wants to know about magic’). Sometimes it’s a place (‘There’s a castle at the end of time, which is the only place there is…’). Sometimes it’s an image (‘A woman, sifting in a dark room filled with empty faces.’)

Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven’t come together before. (‘If a person bitten by a werewolf turns into a wolf what would happen if a goldfish was bitten by a werewolf? What would happen if a chair was bitten by a werewolf?’)

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.

And when you’ve an idea – which is, after all, merely something to hold on to as you begin – what then?

Well, then you write. You put one word after another until it’s finished – whatever it is.

Sometimes it won’t work, or not in the way you first imagined. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Sometimes you throw it out and start again.

I remember, some years ago, coming up with a perfect idea for a Sandman story. It was about a succubus who gave writers and artists and songwriters ideas in exchange for some of their lives. I called it Sex and Violets.

It seemed a straightforward story, and it was only when I came to write it I discovered it was like trying to hold fine sand: every time I thought I’d got hold of it, it would trickle through my fingers and vanish.

I wrote at the time:

I’ve started this story twice, now, and got about half-way through it each time, only to watch it die on the screen.

Sandman is, occasionally, a horror comic. But nothing I’ve written for it has ever gotten under my skin like this story I’m now going to have to wind up abandoning (with the deadline already a thing of the past). Probably because it cuts so close to home. It’s the ideas – and the ability to put them down on paper, and turn them into stories – that make me a writer. That mean I don’t have to get up early in the morning and sit on a train with people I don’t know, going to a job I despise.

My idea of hell is a blank sheet of paper. Or a blank screen. And me, staring at it, unable to think of a single thing worth saying, a single character that people could believe in, a single story that hasn’t been told before.

Staring at a blank sheet of paper.

Forever.

I wrote my way out of it, though. I got desperate (that’s another flip and true answer I give to the where-do-you-get-your-ideas question. ‘Desperation.’ It’s up there with ‘Boredom’ and ‘Deadlines’. All these answers are true to a point.) and took my own terror, and the core idea, and crafted a story called Calliope, which explains, I think pretty definitively, where writers get their ideas from. It’s in a book called DREAM COUNTRY. You can read it if you like. And, somewhere in the writing of that story, I stopped being scared of the ideas going away.

Where do I get my ideas from?

I make them up.

Out of my head.

the link to the full article: http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%3F

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