How'd you come up with that?

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How'd you come up with that?

Postby Down the well » 07 Jul 2010, 07:43

As dumb as it sounds, I woke up one morning with a vision of my two main characters just staring at each other. There was tension there, something holding them back from each other, but also something pulling them together. During the course of the day I discovered the circumstance causing the conflict, determined the setting, and BOOM I was off writing. A year later I'm revising the novel.

So where do you get the ideas for your stories? Do you actively seek out plots and characters or do you let them come to you?
Last edited by Down the well on 07 Jul 2010, 15:46, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Margo » 07 Jul 2010, 08:17

Down the well wrote:Do you actively seek out plots and characters or do you let them come to you?


Yes, either, and both.

I've dreamed whole plots with a full cast included, and I've used random idea generators, and I've brainstormed ideas with a magnificently diabolical associate, and I've used a particularly interesting piece of writing software to see how a plot and characters would flesh out according to the questions it asked, and I've drawn liberally from the people I know and their lives. I've been blessed to meet very interesting people.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Down the well » 07 Jul 2010, 10:02

I'm not usually one for artificial prompts. I don't like doing writing exercises just for the sake of writing. Did enough of that in college.

I find as I get older that I prefer my stories to develop organically - if that's the right word. A common criticism I heard about my first novel was that it felt too contrived, and it was true. I plotted every thing out ahead of time, wrote up character profiles based on the needs of the plot, and so on. In the end the story didn't have enough heart.

So I've come around to the philosophy that if you're lucky enough to have flint and steel strike a spark of an idea in your subconscious, and you think you can build a fire with it, it's best to start blowing on it and see if it will catch. The stories that rise up out of our subconscious, the ones we're afraid to tell, or embarrassed to put into words, or that cut a little too close to our inner selves are often the ones that connect the most with readers.

What do you think?
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Margo » 07 Jul 2010, 10:15

Down the well wrote:What do you think?


I went the organic route and found, for me, it wasn't enough to push me over the top without the structure of cold, hard craft. It was magnitude without direction (the only useful concept I ever got out of physics class).

As for 'artificial' writing prompts, I've found good ones and useless ones. I enjoy the good ones. In fact, one of the best ones I ever used I got from an editor at one of the big publishers. I should send her a thank you note, considering all I've gained from it.

Down the well wrote:The stories that rise up out of our subconscious, the ones we're afraid to tell, or embarrassed to put into words, or that cut a little too close to our inner selves are often the ones that connect the most with readers.


Ah, but 'contrived' plotted stories don't preclude this level of insight. It's not necessarily an 'either or'.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Down the well » 07 Jul 2010, 11:11

Margo wrote:Ah, but 'contrived' plotted stories don't preclude this level of insight. It's not necessarily an 'either or'.


You're absolutely right about that. I guess I just woke up in one of those moods today. It's cloudy and drizzly here - makes me contemplative.

But I do like hearing where people get their ideas, and how the process works for others.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Mira » 07 Jul 2010, 11:45

My process scares me. I start typing and hope that something gels. It often does, but it can take many drafts and alot of time. It's so frustrating. I wish I could lay out plots, but I just don't work like that.

On the other hand, there is something really wonderful about starting with no idea where you are going to end up - and then ending up somewhere. It's scary during the drive, but fun after the fact.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Aimée » 07 Jul 2010, 12:01

Only once have I had a dream that turned into a story, which is probably the most cliché thing. But it only happened once. Everything else either just randomly comes to me by some sort of epiphany, or I find inspiration in other books, TV shows, movies, etc. Whenever I try to seek out an idea, I either get writer's block or the idea is really bad and never goes anywhere.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Margo » 07 Jul 2010, 12:05

I get the most ideas from research.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Quill » 07 Jul 2010, 14:43

I've only ever had one idea, and it came through a dream. I have no idea how I will write a second book after I'm done with this one.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Claudie » 07 Jul 2010, 14:57

I've had ideas from dreams, ideas out of reading (sometimes, a tiny detail in a book springs a whole different story in my head) ideas by talking with friends, and, my favourite so far, ideas by asking myself questions.

I write fantasy and I am a huge fan of worldbuilding. It's hard to come up with a believable detailed world in which to set the story, especially when you want it to be non-generic. Sometimes I take some elements that are typical to fantasy and ask myself how I could change this. The answer will, always, raise more questions (how does X influence this setting?) Conflict emerges from the setting on its own, and with it comes characters. With a little more work, the story comes out. I'll lay out most of the plotline before I start the actual typing.

Once, I also wrote a novel by combining two different songs into a weird premise ("A criminal embarks on a hot air balloon to escape pursuit"). It was fun.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Erica75 » 07 Jul 2010, 14:59

On the off-chance (yeah, right) I'll sound like a cliche, I heard a voice. It said "Don't make me normal." I thought, "Who the f are you and why are you talking to me? I have two children already and I have no idea if they're normal or not. What the f is normal?" (I said this because I don't know what normal is and I rarely swear) Little did I know, over 50,000 words later, I'd figure out he wasn't normal. Not paranormal. Just, well, better than the rest of us (yep, sorry). And he was not the main character, either. Turns out there are many of us normal, everyday folks out there being, well, not normal. And I'm proud to write about a few of them.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby Down the well » 07 Jul 2010, 15:58

Erica75 wrote:On the off-chance (yeah, right) I'll sound like a cliche, I heard a voice.


My characters say the weirdest things when I'm writing. Sometimes I have to ask, "Really, that's what you want to do? Seriously?"

I usually relent and do what they say just to see what happens.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby maybegenius » 07 Jul 2010, 16:42

The loose idea for my WIP came to me when I was pondering the vampire trend. I was sitting around and musing over how vampire/supernatural myths mostly come from people not fully understanding something. That led to, "What if the Undead weren't really 'undead' at all? What if they were just people being mistaken for undead because they had no pulse, but were still alive?"

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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby sbs_mjc1 » 07 Jul 2010, 19:00

I (S.B.) was the person who came up with the original premise, but it came in pieces, and didn't really become a "premise" until last spring. When I was an undergrad, I wrote a history paper on Scottish nationalist propaganda, and in digging through primary sources, I came across this brilliantly hysterical English pamphlet from the 1740s, which insisted (among other things) that the Scots had enlisted demons and werewolves and Celtic fairy creatures to their cause. At the time, I had a good chuckle and set it aside. It took a while to percolate and meet up with some other ideas (I wanted to write something anti-colonialist which was not off-puttingly preachy or unsubtle, and wouldn't get brushed aside as "ethnic"). Since I didn't have much experience writing fantasy, I dragged Mike in, and he added a lot of the stuff about individual characters, and turned it into a dark comedy.
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Re: How'd you come up with that?

Postby heyimkt » 07 Jul 2010, 20:11

Don't you love when that happens? Haha I do!
Pretty much at random times for me. Or, sometimes, the characters will start forming in the back of my mind and I have to figure out their lives...and then the plot comes to me. Other times it's dreams that spark something.
I think the most fun part of it all is when you get that first idea, write it like crazy, wonder where it's going to go...and then get that huge BOOM, and you know exactly what's going to happen. Golden moment hahah
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