Thursday, February 4

How Do You Get Your Ideas?

When reading a book, I often wonder how the author came up with certain ideas. Sure, I know the Lord of the Rings trilogy is based on the atrocities of the World Wars. But how did J.R.R.Tolkien come up with this mythical place called Middle Earth? How did he come up with the individual tales of each race?

Did he have a dream one night, showing him Frodo? Or Sam? Did he take a walk in the woods and hear the creak of the trees and imagined they were talking to each other? Did he hear a poem that just made something click in his brain? Did he see a picture? Did he smell a delicious home cooked meal and think of the Shire? Did he see a wise old man with a long grey beard and kind eyes, and think of Gandalf?

These are the sorts of questions that I ask myself when reading a book. What made the author write this scene, write these characters, write this story?

Then, because I obviously like thinking too much, I turn those questions on myself. Why did I write that poem? What made me use that word over another? Why does my character look this way, and not another? And I can honestly say, that I have no idea why those things are the way they are.

My current story, The Sound of Snow, all began with a very simple image. Here is the snippet I wrote down in my notebook, word for word:

There's a stone bench in the middle of an endless field of white, crisp snow. All you can see are the ornate legs, glistening with frost from the night's freeze. The seat is covered in a delicate powder that sparkles in the dim morning light. On top is a single red rose.
Covered in a blue cloak trimmed with white fur, she kneels in front of the gift. Her blonde curls peek out from beneath the hood, freezing against her skin. It looks like crystal.
Ever so gently, she picks up the rose and holds it in her mittened hands, leaning it against her smiling lips.
To be honest, I'm not quite sure where this sight came from. Some far recess of my brain, perhaps. It's hard to say. What I do know, is that my entire story sprang from this one little glimpse. The characters, the plot, the setting... all of them came from this image of snow, a bench, a rose, and a girl wearing a blue cloak.
How did your story begin?


  1. I asked myself the question, "What would happen if the Fae tried to take over the world?" and the "fairy apocalypse" was born...

    I ask myself these questions all the time, and sometimes I get a bit wacky in my musings! I think a deep part of our creative side is unconscious, and when it's exposed to interesting things, snippets of an idea, beautiful scenery, a sweet line of poetry, or what have you, that it dumps it all in a stewing well from which it will occasionally burp up an idea to our waking creativity...

  2. I got the idea for my current story from my husband, who used to tease the kids about being sent off to the Naughty Boy Factory if they didn't behave. Loved that! :-)

  3. I got the idea for my WIP from the answer to a trivia question I heard on the radio.

  4. I love your image. That beautiful spark that sets the whole thing in motion. Fabulous!

  5. Ok now I NEED to read your story. That little paragraph is incredible!

    My ideas pretty much pop into my head. Sometimes certain scenes are inspired by music or random things, like a food I eat or one of my memories. But the big pictures just happen. Love it that way.

  6. This may sound a little crazy, but my MC fell into step with me (in my imagination, that is) while I was out walking one day. She then started telling me her story--that her British father had died, and she was stuck with her American mom, the ice queen, and not coping too well.

    I'm sure the British-American stuff came from my study abroad experiences, and wondering how the cross-cultural differences might affect a family dynamic.

  7. What a lovely image! I get ideas all over the place. Sometimes I don't even know where they come from.

  8. Great imagery, Nat.

    My stories usually begin with a 'what if' scenario. This time, though, I wondered what supernatural creature hadn't been done to death, and then I wondered what I could write about those creatures that would sell well and yet still be uniquely me. And Voila!

    Now I just have to finish it and see if anyone else thinks it's worth buying. =o)

  9. My novel began when a friend of mine sang Black Is The Colour of My True Love's Hair at a party.

    It made some disparate images that had been in my head for a while come together.

  10. Okay, so not bragging here, okay?

    I literally come up with story ideas all day's frustrating to pick and choose and when the next big one comes along will waiting in line at Starbucks, I cannot type the whole thing into my cell phone before, POOF! it's gone. I decided in December to merge comparable ideas to create one well-rounded book. But, since I'm not James Patterson, I have to let those books wait, for years, until I finish my current projects, which came much the same way.

    I am a very visual person. Between my oldest sister and I, housework becomes story time and the dust bunnies are at war with the broom and we spill coffee and it looks like a lab puppy and we name it Gilbert and the next thing we know, we have a 900 word picture book. It's creepy it really is. I should bottle up my brain cells and sell them.

    First bid, $100...$100.
    $1...sold to the Canadian in the front row.

  11. What a beautiful image! I get thoughts like that sometimes, but mostly I am inspired by real life and the many ways I can twist it into a story of my own. Great post :)

  12. My story Trueborn, became real to me when I heard a character say something in an anime series. The anime was called "Trinity Blood," which had a heavy vampire theme to it. The quote went something like this:

    "Humans eat the flesh of cattle, vampires drink the blood of humans, so what makes you think there's not something greater that wouldn't consume you vampires?"

    Then the guy talking, turned into something crazy and proceeded to tear apart the vampire. In the end, it gave me goosebumps and inspired a set of events that led me to compile a whole story world about how vampires originated. It's a new theory, yes I dared to say new, but I've put it on hold since Twilight basically over saturated the market with vamp novels... So, now I'm working on something else in the mean time, while I wait for the vamp thing to cool down.

  13. Summer- LOL! Why did you think of that question? Were you reading a book about evil Fae? And I agree, I do think a lot of our creative side is unconscious, which is why you can't force creativity out of someone.

    Shannon- Heh, your book sounds interesting just from that little snippet! Thanks!

    Melissa- Really?! What was the trivia question??

    Anissa- Aww thanks =) I just think it's interesting, especially since the "scene" is from the middle of the story, not the beginning.

  14. Rebecca- Aww thanks hun!!! Yeah, that happens to me a lot. I'll hear a song and suddenly BAM, everything is in place. It gets annoying when I'm already working on a different project.

    Laurel- Wow! That's neat (and no, I don't think you're crazy). Did it startle you at first??

    Angie- Thanks!! Heh, that's fun sometimes though. I think it's interesting how our brains work.

  15. B.E.- Thanks!!! I quite like it, even though it's formatted as me just talking to myself. Heh, I am not very good at "what if" scenarios, so I've never gotten an idea from that. And of course they will ;)

    Ellen- Really? That's neat! Why do you think it did that??

    Jonathon- First, uh blog hog much? You wrote me an essay! Just kidding, I like comments =P And you're just so easy to tease. Anyway, I come up with snippets all the time too. Oh, know what you should do? Get a voice recorder and carry it around with you, so then you can quickly get it out before it disappears. My mum is a very visual person like you, and I suppose I am too, just not as much as she is. I think things like that are great though. I cant imagine how boring it must be for people without an imagination. Shudders. And is that 1 dollar American or Canadian?

  16. Julie- Thanks!! Oh, that's neat. I don't really do that, so I'm always curious how it happens. I mean, I use dialogue and situations from real life, but I don't think I could build a story around real life stuff. Just not how my creativity works I suppose =)

    Voidwalker- Oooo I'm intrigued. I love reading paranormal stuff (don't think I could ever write it though). Yeah, it sucks that the market has become a paranormal dumping zone. Hopefully it'll slow down in the next few years.

  17. Usually I just get an image of an opening scene, then I have to work hard to give the idea legs for a full novel - some ideas take off, some are still on my hard drive. ;)

  18. Mystery Robin- Neat! At least you have an opening scene. A lot of writers struggle with that =)


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