Monday Muse: Where Do You Get Those Ideas?

If there is one question every writer hears, it is “Where do you get those ideas?” And if there is any question most of us really can’t answer, it would be that one. Where do the stories come from? Heck if I know. And truthfully, if I did know, I’d check in there a lot more often, because I constantly need fresh ideas.

But Bridget, my darling muse, found a quote this weekend that she told me to share with you all. And as you know, if Bridget says “jump,” my only response is “how high you want that, love?” Because keeping my muse happy and productive is the most important part of writing — I can’t afford to tick her off.

So here’s what Orson Scott Card says about ideas for writing: “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”

It’s not that there is any strange trick to finding inspiration. The only thing you have to do is open your eyes, see what’s around you, and start playing with the possibilities. That’s all. And for most of us, most of the time, that simple task is just about impossible. Coming up with ideas means taking something that is so familiar you don’t even notice it anymore, and giving it a twist (or several) and then telling what would happen.

As in, “what if a kid got an admissions letter from a wizarding school?” “What if a spoiled Southern belle had to fight to keep her family fed?” “What if a young bride feels haunted by everyone’s memories of her husband’s first wife?” “What if a government required teenagers to fight to the death for public amusement?”

Once you get the “what if” in your mind, your muse can take it and run — Bridget is fabulous at giving the answers. It’s finding that initial question that stumps her.

I’m trying to develop my ability to look at the world around me with my “what if” glasses on. What if a lawyer got stuck in the elevator on her way to work one morning? What if a business meeting suddenly becomes a fight for survival? What if a teenager found a bag with $50,000 in it on the way to school?

None of these really crank Bridget’s tractor, but that’s the process. Hopefully, I can recognize one or two of the thousands of ideas I pass today, and make it into a story.

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