“Where do you get your ideas?”
Writers get this question often. It doesn’t lend itself to a simple yes/no answer, so I’m gonna go in-depth with this one.
Where ideas come from: Some are lifted from books, movies, TV, etc. and I file the serial numbers off and recombine them. Some I put serious effort into devising from scratch and developing.
Some do just come to me. This happened with few of my more popular characters.
What most laymen call “ideas” are actually managed influences combined and developed in appealing ways and properly executed.
Influences + juxtaposition + execution = speculative fiction “ideas”.
Most non-writers tend to overestimate the importance of ideas. Pick up any book, turn your television to a random channel, or look out the window. You’ll find a hundred concepts that could be the seed of an SFF novel. Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera sprang from a bet that he could write a book based on the two worst ideas a panel audience gave him. The crowd came up with the lost Roman legion and Pokemon.
Writers must be readers. If you finish a book and say, “I could never come up with an idea like that!” Chances are you don’t read enough fiction.
Ideas are easy. The world is overflowing with them. Execution is the most vital part of the equation by far.
The synopsis of every SFF story sounds dumb because it’s just the pure idea without the execution.
When someone says “I could never think of an idea like that,” nine times out of ten he means he couldn’t execute it as effectively.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of my writing–linguistic techniques I use to deliver the story’s ideas for maximum effect. People call my stuff layered and dense. They’re right, but only a few folks have caught on to what’s happening beneath the surface.
But that’s just me. You don’t have to get down into the paragraph, sentence, & word-level weeds like I do. Just read extensively in your genre, manage your influences, & work hard to hone your execution.
Make my award-winning Soul Cycle part of your reading list, and add the tools I mentioned to your author toolbox.
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