Where do you get your ideas from?
One of the most annoying questions that authors get asked is : where do you get your ideas from?
So - why does this annoy us? Well, partly because it crops up so often, but I think it is more than this. I think it illustrates a basic difference between writers of fiction (especially sff fiction which has lots of wayout ideas) and people who have no desire to make up stories. They canít imagine ever thinking such weird stuff; we think it all the time.
Most writers donít have a problem finding ideas. Our problem is finding time to use them all. And we have a hard time trying explain this to people whose minds just work a different way. Our ideas come from just about anywhere. Give me the yellow pages of a phone book, and I bet I could get an idea for a fantasy novel, and Iím not kidding.
Just to give you an example: I was talking about maps with a family member, and how inadequate they often are. And we talked of the proposal (this was some years ago) to make a kind of computer street maps for installation in cars. And that simple conversation made me think: well, the best kind of map would be one that showed you what was happening on the ground at the time. If a car computer map could show you the traffic jam aheadÖandÖwhat if a map could show the invading army crossing the borders of my fantasy land? And there it was: the idea for Havenstar. (J.K.Rowlings later used the same idea in the Harry Potter stories.)
Of course, one idea can make a short story, but it is not enough for a novel. You have to have lots of them. But I believe, nonetheless, that for most writers, the idea is the easy part. And so it is that we are somewhat perplexed when we get asked the question. We donít know how to answer. We canít see why the people asking canít see all those fabulous ideas just lying about waiting to be usedÖ
And BTW, I notice that there is a very reasonably priced copy of Havenstar up on Amazon.co.uk . Much better than some of the other way-over-the-top-in-price copies that have been on sale over the past couple of years (60 pounds for a mass market paperback??? And it sold too! Alas, no one pays me a percentage on secondhand copies...)
Ahhhh....THE question......where does it come from?
I HATE that question because it IS such a darn struggle to reply without sounding pretentious.
I mean, how do you say to someone..."I get a germ of an idea and start writing. More often than not I don't know what I am going to write from one paragraph to the next and I seem to be reading a new novel as I write it." To me, that sounds SO pretentious...usually, I just shrug.
By the way, when you first started writing and then finished your first book, was it a CHORE to get someone to read it so they could give you a "what-do-you think" critique?
I envy painters, to enjoy their work all you have to do is give no effort...you look, you like, or you don't like. For a writer, you have to get people to expend effort to see if they enjoy your work or not and people are lazy. My father has had a copy of my first novel for 6 months and I don't think he's even started it yet. sheeshe! :eek:
As much as we hate the questions...
In all fairness to those who ask the questions, what should they ask?
What is the story about? Where do you get your ideas? How do you choose the names of your characters? What made you decide to write fantasy?
They are asking about your work with interest, and those questions are the first ones to come to mind, which is why they are asked so often. They are trying to gain an understanding of you and your work. As long as you are not rushed for an answer, an interesting conversation can be started with those tiresome questions. Of course, one would think that we already have pat answers to those questions as they are asked so often. ;)