No matter what genre we write in, authors are always asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” For us, the answer is more simplistic than our readers want to accept.
“No, but really.” Is a common reply.
We really do get ideas from everywhere. From a snippet of an overheard conversation. From a headline glanced while we wait in line to pay for our groceries. I once got a story title from a sound I heard in the woods, that still defies explanation. I thought it sounded like a sneezing moose. Do moose sneeze? I suppose they must. And off I went on a thoughtful sideroad about why a moose might sneeze. What might they be allergic to? And so on.
My Eldest Son (as I have always referred to him online) got me playing The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. I don’t play as much as many people have, I’m fairly sure I don’t have a hundred played hours logged over both games. But Skyrim, most especially, lights my imagination on fire! There are numerous quests a player can undertake, or they can choose to just explore. One can stick to the roads, or choose to wander the mountains and valleys following their gut. Or they can follow a harsh, snowy and windswept coast. A player can choose to travel alone or travel with companions, or they can join one, or all of, the multiple factions. There are even more choices available if one installs “mods”, program upgrades, modifications to the game that can enhance or change the game experience. This is only a rough explanation, but I mention it because these mods (of which there are hundreds) can be inspiring as well. Many gamers, including an 82-year-old great-grandmother, have been so inspired by their gameplay that they’ve gone on to write stories based on their adventures in Skyrim’s provinces. Myself included.
Many others look at the stories we’ve already been told and try to imagine how the story might have played out from a different character’s perspective. This is popular especially with fables, fairy tales, and legends. Often, a story inspires us to rewrite it so that one character might get justice, or be forced to deal with the consequences of their actions, or write the tale with a completely different ending. Songs too are a great source of inspiration – both lyrics and the mood the melodies inspire. Some authors imagine their pets as characters, while others like to play with possible futures or alternate history. Even the mighty Stephen King has done this.
So if you ever ask an author where they get their ideas from and you think they’re dismissing you if they tell you “Everywhere”, consider that perhaps they’re telling you the truth. Maybe they are one of the lucky ones whose ideas and inspiration flit around them as thick as a mob of insects.
If you could ask an author anything, what would it be? Leave your questions in the comments section!