Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ideas All Around.

This week I actually had two people ask me that notorious question. Where do you get your ideas from?

I was, of course, tempted to use Harlan Ellison's famous answer. Tired of hearing the same question over and over, he declared that every week he sent $5 (or $10 or $25, depending on the source) to a little old lady in Schenectady, New York and in return she sent him a list of ideas. Everyone laughed, but apparently at the end of the session there was a queue of people asking for her address.

I even thought of stealing Nick Tchan's recent forum post that said flying monkeys delivered ideas to him on scraps of paper.

Or Theodore Sturgeon's statement that every evening he left a bowl of milk on his front porch, and in the morning the milk had gone and a list of ideas had been left.

Instead I told the truth, that I see them everywhere around me. And they're coming faster than I can write them. I keep a list of them, of course. Some of these gems may not get used for a long time, some of them may end up as a minor idea in a different story. Some of them many never find a home.

Yesterday, for instance, I saw a car being towed by a tow-truck. I started asking "What if?", dropping the event into a number of different scenarios, and had half a story unfolding before I'd even realised it.

As for Theodore Sturgeon's answer, I think he may have been joking. At least once he suffered writer's block, bereft of ideas, and so he wrote to Robert HeinleinHeinlein responded thus.

Check it out. It' a fabulous letter with everything from fully hatched ideas down to short, abstract thoughts.


Gitte Christensen said...

Great link - thank you. The little cat ghost idea is certainly evocative. What a heart tugger. It hardly needs a whole story. Just the thought of that loyal lost soul searching eternity is enough to make me sniff :)

parlance said...

Yes, a fabulous letter! Sturgeon's The Dreaming Jewels is my all-time favorite classic sf book. of my favorites.

Steve Cameron said...

In 1931, 14 year old Forrest J. Ackerman wrote to Edgar Rice Burroughs. The letter, and the response ae fantastic