Hi everyone! Before we get into today’s post, let me just say that Becca is over at Positive Writer today, talking about how a business plan can help writers with their day-to-day decision making. As our careers develop, we get more requests, more opportunities, and it’s hard to figure out when to say yes or no. If this is a struggle for you, you might want to head over to Positive Writer and check it out.
I’m so happy to introduce Andy Peloquin, who is a first timer here at WHW with some great ideas to share on shaking the creativity tree for ideas, and then transforming them into something useful. Please read on!
Where Do Great Ideas Come From?
It’s funny how science still has no idea where ideas come from or how they are formed. What part of the brain do they begin and end in? Are they nothing more than electrical impulses between the hemispheres of the brain? If so, how are they transformed into something usable? How does a simple electrical signal end up in the form of a masterpiece like Michelangelo’s David, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld?
Take a look, if you will, at Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist. It’s an entire magical system based on chalk drawings! I’d be willing to bet that he saw some random children drawing on the sidewalk and thought, “Now that’s an interesting idea!”
We don’t really know how ideas are formed, but how do they become something more than just a “brain fart”? How do we transform them from a “cool idea” into an entire concept?
My inspiration comes from the most unique, unusual places. In my brand new series, The Last Bucelarii, the hero is an assassin (an anti-hero, my personal favorite sort). But he’s something much more than human. Stronger, faster, and better than humans, he can’t be killed. In the end(spoiler alert!), it turns out he’s a half-demon.
The idea for the story came in two interesting stages:
Stage 1: At the age of 17, writing was my passion. I’d write ALL the time, and as much as I could. I participated in online writing competitions–even going so far as to win one. I wrote a short piece of fiction from the perspective of a terrified human being chased by some monstrosity/guardian who was inexorable. In the end of the piece, the human was killed. All very graphic, very raw, very interesting.
Stage 2: Flash forward nine years. At the age of 26, I rediscovered my passion for writing. When reading through all the stuff I had written years ago, I found this old piece and LOVED it. That was to be the prologue for The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer. The POV started as the human being hunted, and the Hunter (the main character) is the implacable “monstrosity” hunting him down. From there, the Hunter became an awe/terror-inspiring assassin feared by everyone in his city of Voramis.
But how did this character become a half-demon? Well, I had to find some way to explain why he was so good at what he did, why he was more than human? I didn’t want to go the route of elves, dwarves, or all the other fantasy races. I was stuck!
At the time, I was addicted to a silly iPad game called Dungeon Hunter. It’s a classic RPG where you hack and slash your way through hordes of demons. Not a real brainiac game, but very fun!
As I was playing, I couldn’t help thinking about how fun it would be to write about demons. There’s so much you can do with them, and they are a classic villain. So what if the main villains of the piece were demons? That would make for a fun story. But the interactions between the villains and the main character had to be realistic. What would make it more interesting? What if the Hunter was actually a descendent of demons?
Boom! Like a bolt of lightning, it happened. I had found my inspiration!
Of course, the story has morphed and changed in many ways since that day. The whole “demon” thing is very done to death, so I had to find a new approach to demons. Once you get deeper into the series, I believe you’ll find it highly satisfying. But in Book 1, it’s all about him dealing with these unstoppable creatures and discovering his heritage.
Earlier, I posed the question, “How do we transform them from a “cool idea” into an entire concept?” That’s the rub, isn’t it?
Lifehacker.com has a unique twist on creativity: “What separates the creative from the not-so-creative isn’t so much the ability to come up with ideas but the ability to trust them, or to trust ourselves to realize them.”
What does this mean? Simple: EVERYONE has creative ideas. You have them in your sleep, as you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re driving, or even on the toilet. But what do you do with them? Do you let them slip from your mind, or do you try to use them to create something amazing?
Here are two keys to taking a good idea and making something of it:
- Not letting it go. If the idea has merit, don’t let it go. Keep thinking about how you can use it. Keep trying to shape it or let it shape your story. See if it works in what you’re currently writing, or consider starting something new. The more you mull over an idea, the more it will develop. You may find that it will totally transform your story, or change the direction. No good idea should EVER be let slip!
- Trusting yourself. How many times have you hit “Backspace” on a word, paragraph, or sentence because you weren’t sure that it was right? How many times have you neglected to write something down because you weren’t convinced the idea was sound? A good idea is a good idea, simple as that! Trust that you can tell the difference between a good and bad idea, and save that idea. Even if you don’t use it right away, it can be useful later on–or in something else. As you learn to start trusting yourself and the source of your ideas, you’ll find that you can turn pretty much anything into something worth reading. Look at what Brandon Sanderson did with chalk drawings!
Take those creative ideas and use them to help you do amazing things! It doesn’t matter where the ideas come from–what matters is how you use them. If you find something interesting, why not try to incorporate it into a current story line or create a whole new story around that theme?
You never know where things will go, or how it will morph and develop. Heck, you could come up with a 5 or 6-book series from a simple idea. I know I did!
The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer
The Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.
When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.