Sunday, 28 June 2009

Where do your ideas spring from?

Like most writers I'm forever being asked, 'Where do you get your ideas?' 'From everywhere,' I'll reply, which, often as not, is greeted with a blank stare. I assume what they'd really like to hear is something on the lines of 'Oh, I have this machine in the back bedroom that pops out ideas if I feed it pound coins.'

Well, I don't have such a machine. My writing style is fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type. An idea pops into my head as a scene or a bit of dialogue and that generates lots of questions which, in all probability, I won't even jot down. Yes, I know all the advice about keeping a notepad to hand and I do have dozens ranging from Moleskines to Wilko's jotters scattered around the house, but I'm always convinced I'll remember an idea...which I rarely do, so yes, the advice is right blah, blah.

Anyway, if I do remember it by the time I sit in front of the computer, I'll start to write it up and if the Muse Fairy is with me, a tale will evolve.

The last story I submitted (and sold) the other week, came in exactly this way. I was doing the washing up when the song Love Hurts by the Everly Brothers came on the radio. Remember that one?

Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds, and mars any heart
Not tough or Strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain
Love hurts......ooh, ooh love hurts

The brain cells fired up. The questions started coming.

Q. What else is as painful as a broken heart?
A. A broken leg? A broken tooth? Yes, the latter sounded right.

Q. Who's got a broken tooth?
A. Let's make it a man.

Q. Why?
A. Because men would make a drama out of it and I can ring more humour out of that! Women's mag editors are always on the lookout for humorous stories.

Q. How did my man break his tooth? I'm calling him Rob by this time..
A. He's showing off by taking the cap off a bottle of beer with his teeth - a party trick he was good at in his younger days.

Q Who's he showing off to?
A. The new and much younger, sexy neighbour. I named her Claudia because it sounds blonde and girly.

Q. Why is Rob showing off? He has a loving wife doesn't he? And she's called Kath, I decided.
A. Rob's having a mid-life crisis, what else?

It was at this point I sat down to begin putting it all together. By the time I had my characters 'talking' to each other and I understood them, the rest of the story wrote itself. The resolution came easily and with a twist at the end, which if you want to know, you'll have to wait until it's published!

PS - In case you were wondering, this is what a Muse Fairy looks like


Happy Writer said...

Hi Sue, I think how you've shown the process of how a writer gets from idea to outline is much more interesting than, 'where do you get ideas. And it's that process that the real creativity takes place, and obviously you're brilliant at it.

Sue Houghton said...

Wouldn't say brilliant or anywhere near, but thanks for the compliment!
From experience of listening to new writers, too often they sit in front of the PC screen and wait for a story to come fully formed. Yes, sometimes it does happen that way, if you're lucky! They're the stories that usually sell first time out for some reason.
But mostly, I take a few days, even weeks playing around with an idea. Most of my stories are character led, so once I can 'see and hear them', then I'm halfway there. Everyone has a different approach, of course.