There’s a meme going around asking writers to explain where they get their ideas, and some of the responses have been illuminating. Also, I was talking to one of my friends at the library about my books, and she asked me that question and I wanted to come up with a thoughtful answer but my initial response was: Fuck if I know!
I mean, that’s not really true. I can trace the genesis of some of my ideas. A lot of times I get ideas watching other writers handle them badly. All the Promised Stars was basically inspired by a scene from Game of Thrones, and me wanting a certain situation to come out differently. Now, the entire book wasn’t just that, and it grew far beyond its initial inspiration. I know this is a common method for writers to engage with. One of my favorite authors, Seanan McGuire, wrote her entire Incryptid series because she was mad about something that happened on Supernatural.
So, that’s one place I get ideas from. I’ve also gotten a lot of ideas from studying history. A lot of writers do this too. Pierce Brown created his Red Rising series because he wanted to write about ancient romans in space. But often times this question is asked in frustration. People think there is some great secret well of ideas published authors can subscribe to. But that’s just not it. The truth is I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. And most successful writers I know don’t have this problem, either. You just have to pay attention to what is going on around you. You have to put everything that happens to you and everything you learn through a sort of filter that comes out as fiction on the other side. You can be taught how to write. You can be taught how to create stories and follow them through to some sort of successful conclusion. This is a craft as well as an art. But I’m not sure you can be taught to come up with hundreds of ideas a day if that’s not something that comes naturally to you. If you have any sort of idea generator inside you at all, then you can learn to fine tune it. But if you just don’t think of ideas? I’m not sure you can learn that.
But you can definitely be taught to pay more attention, and refine your generator. I don’t want to be discouraging, but it’s just the way some peoples’ brains work. Most of us become writers because we have ideas. We don’t get ideas because we want to be writers. That’s an important distinction.
So, if there is some sort of idea fairy that plants things in a writer’s head, I’m not sure I’ve met her. There’s no trick, its just something that kind of happens naturally.