That’s a question writers get a lot. Most of the time, my answer is “I have no idea. It was just something I was thinking about.” I think a lot of us are the same way. Ideas get in our head and we have to get them out. That’s what makes writers who they are.
I do have some ideas that I can pinpoint the origin of, though. Many times, plot ideas come from things that I’m thinking about or studying. I’m a plot-first writer, where I think of what’s going to happen and then create people to follow the path, rather than creating amazing characters and finding something for them to do as they grow as people, so typically I see an adventure and then find the right people to take it. My main series, the one I’ve been working on since forever, stems from my deep love for and fascination with cryptozoology. I’ve talked about it before, but for those of you who don’t know, cryptozoology is the study of unknown creatures, like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, el Chupacabra, and so on. Those are just some of the more famous ones. There are literally dozens, possibly even hundreds, of these creatures, known as cryptids, all over the world. My favorite is Mokele Mbembe, a dinosaur-like creature reported to still live in the jungles of Africa. It is this study, and this cryptid in particular, that formed the idea for Dying for Dragons.
The novel I just finished (and am preparing to pitch), “The Days of Noah”, grew out of the ideas that started churning after I read Chuck Missler’s book, “Alien Encounters.” Of course, as fiction often does, my story goes far beyond reality and possibility (although I maintain it’s still totally plausible and realistic), but it was inspired by Missler’s concept that “aliens” are demons that travel in a dimension alongside ours.
That sort of thing happens a lot, especially in Spec Fic, because it’s all about the “what if.” “What if dinosaurs really are still alive in some parts of the world?” “What if demons travel in an alternate dimension that can affect ours?”
Sometimes, though, my ideas come from other sources. The new project I’m working on now stemmed from reading another book where the concept was cool, but I felt it wasn’t pulled off well at all. In the book I read, the character, immortal, rejoins the world after 400 years of solitude, and in a matter of a couple days has figured out Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, TV, and can blend into a social environment without being markedly out of place. As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking, if I had a character who had been missing from time for 400 years, they’d have a lot harder time figuring out what’s going on and fitting into the world. And so I came up with my current WIP, a sort of Sleeping Beauty story.
So, what about you? Where do your ideas come from? Can you pinpoint an origin, or do they just insert themselves into your head and demand to be let out?