The Ideas Factory

It’s a common thing for non-writers to ask authors (and fanfic writers!) ‘where do you get your ideas?!’

Sometimes, a non-writer will say something along the lines of ‘hey, I have this great idea! You should write it, and we can split the profits!’ What non-writers don’t understand is that ideas are not precious. Writers get them all the time. We call them plotbunnies. The hard part is picking which ones you want to pursue into a full novel, because it is the writing that is the hard part. The daily slog of putting words on the page.

So, I’ve decided to share what it’s like being a writer, with the constant bombardment of ideas for things you might want to write. I kept notes every time I got an idea for a story throughout the day today. (It’s a Saturday, so no work!) This is the result:

BEFORE BREAKFAST

I browsed Facebook before breakfast and I already had two story ideas before 9am.

The first was this article, about a teen who stood in for a girl’s deployed father. There are two ways of writing this story. First, is that you age up the characters and have a similar moment – I think it could still work in a YA novel, maybe. It would obviously be the start of a sweet romance between them. The second is that you have this moment in the backstory of the characters – the girl would develop a serious case of hero worship of this young man that would stick with her throughout her life. What would happen if they then met again as adults, and he realised he was attracted to her, too?

Now, I think either of these stories could work, but they aren’t ideas I would be likely to pursue. I don’t tend to like the heroine of my story pining over the hero; particularly not for a long period of time. (Mutual pining, on the other hand, is a favourite of mine).

The next idea I had was based on this video someone posted, and the comment below.

lingerie

This made me consider a heroine that opened up a lingerie shop to help women with bigger breasts. Since there is a lot of great, sexy bras in her shop, people (and maybe the hero) get the wrong idea about her. In reality she’s very shy! I would also consider making her plus sized, since I think that would really work.

AFTER BREAKFAST

I came across this gifset on Tumblr and decided it needed to be a children’s book. A dog and a rat being best friends is the cutest thing you’ll see all day.

LUNCH

I went to lunch with someone who isn’t well – very not well – and then watched them lie to someone they knew about the illness. It made me think that there might be a story in that. Someone comes back to their home town, and won’t tell anyone why they are there, and refuses to get close to anyone. Turns out they have an illness that might very well be fatal. Depressing and angsty, but it could work, particularly if they manage to have the life-saving operation they need in the end. (I always need my happy ending!)

That same person and I were later discussing drunk shopping, as we picked up a package they didn’t remember ordering. There wasn’t an immediate story there, but I couldn’t help but think that you could have some fun with it. Maybe someone accidentally drunk-orders something a little bit naughty to their hot next door neighbour? That could result in some amusing and sexy shenanigans.

I saw the words ‘Royal Bakery’ and that sparked something. Maybe a princess running from an arranged marriage gets a job in a cupcake bakery in small town America, and falls in love with the local handyman/sheriff/mayor/whatever.

After reading this film review, I wondered if I could do a non-religious version of this story (typical though it is). I decided it was an immediate no because I don’t like to write about exploited women.

DINNER

I was on my way to dinner with a friend and I saw three classic cars sitting next to each other in someone’s garage. I immediately thought of a hero that collects classic cars. But I realised that was stereotypical, and it would be more interesting if it was the heroine that was obsessed with old cars. She could be a mechanic, maybe. I’m not sure who her romantic counterpart would be, yet, but I can picture her as a character.

The architecture of Doha (where I live) can be very unusual, so as I was getting closer to the restaurant, I was contemplating rival architects. One would be a traditionalist—probably a conservation architect—and the other would design crazy modern things. I think the modernist would be the man, and the conservation architect would be a woman. They would be competing for a big contract, both with very different ideas about what this new building requires. (The big contract might even be with her father?) Lots of opportunity for snarky competitiveness.

So, I was waiting for my friend at the restaurant and two women walked by pushing strollers. I mused on the scenario of what if they were two recently divorced women that meet in a mother’s group, and end up falling in love with each other? Could be a cute story.

Over dinner, my friend told me a story about an old man in salmon suit at the symphony orchestra she used to see all the time. He would make a great character in something. I can picture him being a secondary character in a fun contemporary romance.

AFTER DINNER

“I just think goodness is more interesting. Evil is constant. You can think of different ways to murder people, but you can do that at age five. But you have to be an adult to consciously, deliberately be good – and that’s complicated.”

I saw this Toni Morrison quote when I got home and it inspired some thoughts. I’d like to explore this idea in a book. Probably a dystopian sci fi novel. I’m not sure exactly how I’d do it, and what sort of world I’d have to build to make that the central theme. It would take more pondering.

And now it’s bed time and who knows how many more ideas I’ll get as I fall asleep. I don’t know if all writers have days like this, but it’s pretty common for me! I hope it gives non-writers more of an idea about what it can be like being a writer.

2 thoughts on “The Ideas Factory

  1. I can appreciate this so much. I don’t jot the ideas down in a pad because I’d have no time to do any other work, but I get new ideas all the time, and the hardest part is always deciding which ones are worth pursuing.
    I’ve had some great ideas, ones I think might make really good books, but they’re not in genres I feel comfortable or capable writing so I’ve had to put them away.
    I get ideas from the moment I wake till I go to bed, they even keep me up many nights. It’s no good having an idea, though, if you can’t expand it into an actual story.

    • Yeah, I don’t usually write my ideas down, either, so this was an interesting exercise!

      I know what you mean about struggling to decide which ideas are worth pursuing. There are so many factors. Is it a genre I like and think I can write? Is it an idea that I want to live with for the next 6 months? Is it a story I think has value? One that won’t play into anything harmful? So many considerations!

      But, yes, expanding something from an idea to a story can be tough. Sometimes you just need to find a starting point and just write! Other times it needs more development first. It takes a lot of practice to be able to do that, I think. I know it took me a long while to get from the ideas stage, to the part where I actually finished something. There were a lot of false starts in between, but I learned a lot as I went.

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