Where do my ideas come from? It’s a good question and one I often pause on when I get asked. I’ll often be inspired by a book I’m reading, or a show I’m watching or music I’m listening to. And I’ll let those things stew in my mind for a while and sometimes an idea will come from that, usually at a random and inconvenient time and then I have to wait all day to get home and jot it down.
Once I have an initial idea, and it can be something as vague as ‘I should include a country singer in there’, I stew on it. I turn it over and over in my head until a plot takes form and the characters start talking to me. Don’t worry, I don’t talk back to them. Well, most of the time anyway. If they annoy me enough when I’m writing them they may get a stern talking to. But I never start writing until I can hear the main character’s voice clearly. I’ve tried without having that and it’s been a failure each time. So I wait. And it can sometimes be a long wait from having an initial idea to actually hearing their voice and I’m not the world’s most patient person so it can be frustrating sometimes. However, when that voice does come to me, it’s worth the wait because I can start writing!
I don’t often get ideas from my everyday life but I sometimes pull little snippets from it and use that in a scene. If there’s a dog in my book I tend to model its behaviour on my own dog. And before any of my family and friends panic, I don’t model my characters after people I know. I’ll occasionally pay close attention to their mannerisms, but I do that with everyone I meet. I like to see what people do with their hands while they talk, or their facial expressions when they’re listening, how they walk, etc. People watching is actually a fun little exercise.
I’ve always been a daydreamer and instead of seeing it as a time wasting hobby, I now choose to see it as a skill. Although I know it can be frustrating for people. Especially when they start talking to me and it takes me a while to realise that someone is talking to me because I’ve been off with the fairies.
The majority of my daydreaming happens when I’m walking. In the space of fifteen minutes my mind can wander from ‘it’s nice out today’ to ‘I don’t think I’d like to live in the desert’ to ‘imagine if I had to trek across a desert with only the things I had on me’ to ‘if I could turn myself into anything to get across this desert what would it be?’ Other times I can have entire conversations between characters in my head and when I finally come back to reality I realise I’ve made it to work and don’t recall anything about the actual walk there.
I will also hash out a lot of my plot during these walks. I will ask myself questions and take the plot down different paths until it feels right. I enjoy this part. From the idea to hashing out the plot because it can all be done internally. Sitting down and trying to put the plan on paper can be a struggle but a necessary one as it helps de-clutter my mind and stops me from wanting to tear my hair out.
I get a lot of random ideas that I type as notes on my phone or email to myself and when I sit down and put them all into the one spot I realise most of them are just words that at the time seemed super important but three weeks down the track don’t mean much. I’ve had ‘tanner and mason’ written on my whiteboard for a year because one day it was absolutely vital that I remember that but for what purpose I couldn’t tell you. I also have a note to re-watch Season 2 of Strike Back. There must be something in there that inspired me. I need to learn to be more specific in these notes to myself and not rely on my memory to do the work for me because, as a writer, my mind is so full of stories and conversations that little things like the reason I need to re-watch Season 2 of Strike Back don’t mean anything.
So that’s just a little insight into the mysteries of my mind. It’s often a jumble that I need to wade through to find something worth using, but it’s somewhere I love being.