Where do writers get their ideas?
I’ve heard this question a lot, not always directed toward me, and there are a couple of good answers to it. I’ll save the best one for a second.
My friend Aprilynne has always replied to that with “I go to the Idea Store and if they’re having a sale, I get two.”
(I’ve always understood that as her way of saying “It just happens.”)
The real answer is actually a lot simpler than that: daydream, and ask yourself “what if?”
Kind of like when Stephen King cleaned high school locker rooms during his summers as a teen, and when he saw the girls’ room, he was confused at the feminine hygiene product dispenser on the wall. It was explained to him, and he filed that knowledge away. Later in life when he was reading an article on human telekinesis, he learned that it allegedly manifested during times of heightened emotional duress, for example, a teen girl’s first menstrual cycle.
Those two things together formed the beginning of his first big best-seller, Carrie.
For a less graphic idea, take Leigh Statham’s “Not-So-Innocuous-Girl” books. Statham was studying some family history, chanced upon the tale of a transatlantic ancestor, and decided to retell it in a steampunk vein. My wife devoured those books.
Or when Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight, she was probably thinking “What if I did vampires, but to be really meta about it, the book ITSELF sucked?”
(Yeah, she made a billion dollars off the series and I read them all, don’t @ me)
The point is, you play with things. Change it up. Ask yourself questions about how to make it work, and then you keep doing that. Soon you’ve built a whole world, and you can drop some characters into it for a rip-roaring good time.
Like an American Revolution, only where the British use magic, so the Americans use tech.
Or Beauty and the Beast, with Gaston as the hero.
Or a superhero cheerleader Amazon warrior adventure.
It’s about that easy. The idea isn’t the hard part. It’s sticking it out to the end that really wrecks your head.
So get to work.