Friday, March 28, 2014

Processing Ideas

If you tell anyone that you write fiction, you've probably heard someone ask where you get your ideas. If you're like me, you don't really have an answer to that question.

Some of my ideas come from other stories--a character type in someone else's book or comic or movie that wasn't explored, for example. Or a plot device that could fit with some characters I've already created.

Some of my ideas come from eavesdropping and people watching (I'm terrible at this). I tend to be a very character-first author, in that I create characters and then attempt to give them a plot, so watching real people and listening to how they talk has huge brainstorm potential.

Some of my ideas come from issues that I feel need to be addressed in society. Feminism, racism, homophobia, political disputes, war and poverty--these are things that can be explored in different ways via fiction, and some of them are rich idea-grounds.

Some of my ideas come from dreams (or daydreams). The unconscious mind is practically crawling with awesome images and symbols that we can draw upon for fiction. Assuming we can remember them when we wake up, of course.

So, when people ask me where I get my ideas, I just have to shrug and mutter something about, "well, you know…."

I think idea-gathering, like writing in general, has different processes for different people. Some people soak ideas in like a sponge and immediately start planning books upon books. Some people let little story-sparks sit for a long time without writing them down (and some people, like me, subsequently forget some of them). Some people write down those ideas and work on other projects in the meantime.

Honestly, it's fascinating to see what works for other people, whether you're a plotter or a panther, a write-ideas-down-er or a forget-everything-er. Maybe it's just part of my people-watching nature, but I love figuring out how other people work.

So, humor me, will you? How do you gather ideas and turn them into finished projects, whether you write or draw or do something else entirely?

This post written by the ever-distractable cyborg halfling, Emily. When she's not creepily people watching, she's probably avoiding blogging at or attempting to actually find a writing process that works for her. Stalk her on Twitter as @emilyksinger or send her an email through

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