How do you come up with ideas for your stories?
I laugh a little whenever someone asks me this question. For me, coming up with ideas is never a problem. My bigger problem is having too many ideas to write about, and not enough time to get them all on paper.
My desk is hidden under piles of pulp. Some stacks are neat – correspondence, bookkeeping, workshop information – other stacks look more like a Dr. Seuss drawing. They lean and teeter and seem to grow taller with almost no human intervention. Those piles are composed of little scraps of paper containing ideas that have hit me from out of nowhere.
Some contain a phrase or a verse. “Can a cowboy be a cowboy if all the cows are gone?” (A little prompt for a sci-fi project I’m developing.) Some contain url information for good website research. Still others hold tiny drawings for an item in a story. Add to those scraps a few business cards from new friends, a cut-out article from a magazine, a picture of someone I could use for character inspiration and a book recommendation scrawled across the back of a bank deposit slip.
Once a month – sometimes more frequently – I sit at my desk and organize the clutter. I have cubbies for all of my ACTIVE works-in-progress, and then I have files for ideas to be developed in the future. As I’m cleaning, I usually come up with another idea or two. “What would happen if I was cleaning and I discovered a letter from…?”
The point is that I’m a writer. I write. I daydream. I imagine. Every song on the radio paints a scene in my head. The sound of an unusual dialect makes me wonder. The far-away expression of the woman in the diner booth next to mine tugs at my heart. Stories surround me and call to me and make demands of me. They wake me from sleep.
I have come to the realization that most of my ideas will never be published. Many may never make it out of the files of my imagination. Some stories will never be known by anyone other than me, and I am okay with that. One thing of which I am sure is that I will never run out of ideas.