As a shiny-new author, I’m already aware of the fascination book lovers have with where ideas come from. I have yet to be at a book event where the guest author isn’t asked where the ideas come from? With all the books and movies and tv shows out there, it is astounding that creators keep finding news ways to tell stories. Yet, we do.
Once upon a time, considering myself one of these creative people was laughable. I was the devourer of other people’s works, not the storyteller. I could never come up with ideas that hadn’t been done to death. And then something crazy happened. I had an idea. An idea I hadn’t read or seen in a movie (though I’m sure it’s been done somewhere, I just couldn’t find it). Once that first idea popped onto a page, I couldn’t stop new ones from following. They multiplied faster than promiscuous bunnies.
I keep track of all these ideas in a handy-dandy word doc. When a new idea bunny arrives — be it a plot point or a character or a setting, I take a few minutes to write down the key points then return to my current project. Sometimes one of these bunnies is more persistent than the others, it demands more thought, more exploration. So I pull a blank notebook off my shelf and start my idea journal. This is where all my books take shape in the early days.
Back to the discussion… thus far, I’ve had an abundance of ideas, and new ones keep arriving. Just tonight, while driving through the foothills of Pennsylvania on twisty-curvy roads at night, I had two ideas — both inspired by the semi-truck carrying chickens in cages that followed us for over thirty miles (henceforth renamed “The Chicken Truck”). The first was of the Stephen King variety — The Chicken Truck that follows a driver on empty, dark roads, then more Chicken Trucks converge around the driver… you get where I’m going. The second idea was about the kind of person who would drive the chicken truck. How did he get the job? Did he like it? Did it bother him that he was most likely taking hundreds of chickens to their imminent death? Did he eat chicken? I imagine a The Chicken Truck driver has some interesting stories to tell.
So, dear reader, the key keeping the ideas multiplying is to keep myself open to them. Everything and everyone has a story and part of my job as a writer is to fill in those stories. One last thought, never be afraid of where an idea might take you. Sure my Chicken Truck story idea will probably never lead to a book, but I might get an interesting character, or setting out of it. Or maybe just the exercise of letting my creative muscles flex. Keeping those muscles in shape is the most important part, because then they are ready when the best ideas arrive.
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