Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Welcome back. Today I am going to answer the age old question everyone asks writers.

Where do you get the idea for your stories?

This is a deep, dark secret writers have kept to themselves over the years and it is now time to throw back the veil of mystery.

Writers get their ideas everywhere. Anything that can spark the mind. A woman shopping with two incorrigible children - no, wait, that is a small shoplifting gang of a man dressed as a woman and two dwarfs dressed as children.

It isn't magic. It isn't voodoo. It's 50% imagination; 50% quirk, and 50% drive. A writer needs to put more than 100% of him/her self into it. Writing is NOT something you do on a whim because it is easy. Writing is NOT easy. People have typed for years before getting published. Oh, sure, there are those who get discovered overnight, but think about it - that is less than 1% of 1% of 1% of 1% of the population. Very small.

This 'getting an idea' is called Concept and is the very first step in the writing process. Without some form of concept you are just slapping a lot of words together for no coherent or apparent reason.

Now back to where do ideas come from. Michael Crichton wrote "Jurassic Park" using today's headlines - taking blood from a mosquito encased in amber during the days of the dinosaur. He did a "what if" and the rest is history.

I was on a flight from LA to Chicago. The woman next to me got a mixed-drink and told me she thinks it is the tonic water that makes her tipsy. I wrote a short story about an alien posing as a human getting drunk by just drinking tonic water. Uh, by the way, the earth was saved by the puny human giving it to her.

Even poetry can be written on a whim's thought; and usually is. It was a beautiful summer day at the lake, I was sitting under some pines, listening to the wind whistle through them above my head. Suddenly I had goose bumps as the wind curled around my neck. Moments later I watched the wind ripple the surface of the lake... like goose bumps. I wrote a poem entitled "Have You Touched the Wind" from that experience.

So what is the magic formula for writing? What is the catalyst that creates the momentous thought for your story? It can be anything: a small news article, a scientific discovery, your neighbor's bad day, this morning shaving in the bathroom, a person you see in the park, rain sleeting across the road, a sunrise, a mispronounced word, the moon, and the list can go on and on. Just add a 'what if' and start...

I said it was 50% imagination. Maybe I was a little short there. Make it 75% imagination, 50% quirk, and 100% YOU. Your math teacher may not like my numbers but this is writing, not math.

There is a dog walking down the street, it stops and...


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