Cliche Writing Question

I like Yahoo Answers/Books and Authors.  Not only is it fun to read the posted questions and what others have to say, but I also enjoy answering them.  Many are thought-provoking, like the one who asked how you know when your story is finished.  I posted before on that, because at first it seems like a no-brainer to a writer, until you try to explain it. 

Along the same lines is the question many writers receive: where do you get your ideas?  I have seen many people on Answers post either that very question, or a similar one where they post wanting others to give them ideas to write about.  My inclination is to laugh when I hear that question, and I know many authors have a stock answer but really, when I actually give the question some thought, I pause.

It’s not so much where the idea comes from, I think.  It’s not like there’s this secret pot I dip into and pull out something.  I think the question would be more accurate if it was phrased as, what triggers an idea.  For me, it’s another cliché writing question.  What if…

I’ll see an object, or hear a snippet of conversation, or watch an event unfold and think, ‘what if this happened’, or ‘that conversation would have been more interesting if she’d said this’, or ‘wow, he’s lucky that didn’t happen’, and an idea grows from that moment.  So for me, stories arrive from observing life around me and from wanting to twist those observations to make them into a story I’d want to read.  And I think that is true for most writers.  How many times have we told our family members a story about something that happened and found ourselves embellishing to make it funnier or more dramatic?  It’s the same principle.  My husband says he’ll listen to me telling a story and think, ‘I don’t remember that.’  Well, that’s part of being a writer isn’t it?  Creating, embellishing, twisting, combining, and daydreaming.

So like I said, a cliché question can still be interesting to pause and consider occasionally.  What are your thoughts on the mysterious source of imagination?

2 thoughts on “Cliche Writing Question

  1. I also think “triggering” or “sparking” an idea is more accurate than “getting” one. Some authors talk about how whole novels hit them all at once, but I know I have to work the initial flash of inspiration for a while until it becomes a really workable “idea.”

    Poems and music have given me lots of sparks. As I’ve mentioned once or twice over at Intergalactic Writers, I get vivid dreams that can sometimes provide the nucleus of a story. And sometimes, I think you have to let it sit for a while. My current novel was only truly born when I combined what had been, until that point, two wholly separate novels. By now I’ve had the ideas so long, and they’ve grown so intertwined, I can’t say where one begins and the other ends… nor what “sparked” them in the first place…


    • Hi Arvik: I like the use of ‘sparking’ and ‘triggering’. Much more accurate. Music and dreamsalso give me those sparks you talk about, sometimes only a single scene that a story then evolves around. Music though, imparts an ache inside, almost a melancholy, that can only be eased with words. Lisa


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