Monday, October 7, 2013

Ideas - Where Do They Come From?

I was asked a question at my last book signing.  Why do I mention it? This blog is released on Monday morning and on Tuesday night I will be at another book signing, doing the Q & A.  But back to the question...

Where do you get the ideas for your stories? The reason I ask is I read that an author should write about what they know. How do you qualify your skills to write in the genres you do?

Since that book signing I have had the time to reflect and review, honing my answer.

I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal.  How can I relate any possible qualifications of my life to my writing?

I've always enjoyed science, both ancient and futuristic and try to keep myself informed with new developments in technology while also studying past revelations.  Yes, from archaeology to space exploration.  That, in and of itself, also lends to the paranormal which runs a parallel rail with science.  That which was spooky and unfathomable mere years ago can be easily explained today.  Sometimes.  Of course, fantasy is just a step away from the paranormal. One only needs to use an aspect of the paranormal, twist it, and suddenly you can weave a tale of the fantastic.  Horror?  Who doesn't like to get the s#!t scared out of them?  That alone qualifies.

Let's take horror.  I go into the doctor's office and have blood drawn.  How far of a stretch is it for me to tell in gruesome details the agony of the needle injection?  In fact, the lab where they do this work has a row of chairs - 4 of them - in a line and people are 'confined' by a front shelf being dropped down.  Add a smirk, a side glance and a sudden curl of the lip.  Tension builds.  It only takes a wrong turn and instead of the arm, the technician is now jamming the needle into the neck.

So where do the ideas come from?


As a child I day dreamed a lot.  I saw things differently.  I spent many hours laying in the grass on a summer day staring at the clouds, seeing what they reminded me of from reality.  We lived in the country but not on a farm so my brother and I had to make up our own games - my closest neighbor was over 1/2 mile away. My brother preferred to play cowboys and Indians.  I always got to be the Indian.  Again, imagination was critical since it was back in the 50s and fancy outdoor playground toys didn't exist.

I loved fairy tales as a child.  In middle school, I was intrigued by the Tarzan movies and read all the Tarzan books I could get from the library.  Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan.  In high school I discovered he also created John Carter of Mars, Pellucidar, and several other series involving distant locales.  I read as many I could get my hands on. From there it was a short jump to Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, J. R. R. Tolkien and several others.

So how do I justify my "ability" to write in the genres I do?  How can I say "write what you know" as advice to a new writer?

I have fifty-five plus years of reading in the genres.  In no way am I saying I know it all.  But, I know one thing I have that many of today's youth seem to lack.  An imagination.  Today's youth are involved with all the electronic gadgets.  No matter how advanced technology moves ahead, I don't believe it will ever match the imagination.  As a friend once said: No matter how many shades of gray a computer can define, it still comes down to either 0 or 1, yes or no.  Maybe doesn't exist.

I feel very sorry for whoever asks me the question tomorrow night regarding where I get my ideas and/or how I can write in the genre.

Until next I ramble on...

1 comment:

  1. This is a great question with multiple responses. I tend to write about subjects I don't know about (and that does drive me crazy) It could be a different religion, a country in Asia... what do I do? I research and read and try to gain enough knowledge so I can get my points across in a book with enough fact that I don't get called out on the carpet about it too much. Othertimes I get my ideas, like you, just using my imagination - they come from so many places - nice post!