Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where do ideas come from? And can I get some better ones?

Continuing on from Monday's post about dreams as inspiration, I want to write a bit more about where ideas come from. That's the question writers are always asked, right? And sometimes they have nice, clear answers, like Theodore Dreiser basing AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY on a newspaper article. Or A GATHERING LIGHT by Jennifer Donnelly which is a gorgeous young adult book based on the same historical story as Dreiser's book. Alternatively writers can have shady, mystical answers, but those answers make sense too because writers are weird, right? Both Stephenie Meyer and Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed to write based on a dream (of course, Coleridge's dream was opium induced).

But frequently writers' answers regarding inspiration make no sense. They say they found themselves wondering about free will, or observing crabby kids in a grocery store, or walking along a beach. And that's because inspiration and creativity are random and tricky and fleeting. I find all the work in the world doesn't bring ideas. Instead, ideas choose to come. Sure, you can look in all the right places, do a lot of brainstorming, keep the door to your mind wide open. But I guess story ideas are like love. Sometimes they just unexpectedly happen. And frequently they don't. And like falling in love, I've found the best story ideas are the ones that come and won't leave my mind alone.

I mention all this because I'm currently seeking a new idea. Not too actively, I already have plenty on my plate. But I'd like to start school in October with something on the back burner, an idea to get to know, to invite out to play and to see what happens.

I joke frequently that my NEXT novel is going to be simple. Because my writing is NEVER simple. I admire books like SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson (one of the most incredible ya books EVER) which have a single main character, a single point of view, one driving issue (in SPEAK the character's need to speak up after a life-changing trauma). To juxtapose, my current work in progress currently has TWO worlds and THREE narrators, each with their own dilemmas, climaxes and resolutions. Or, my previous novel, ADÈLE. I decided that one was going to be nice and simple, just a ghost story. But then I added a historical element to it, needed to give the ghost her own narration, and suddenly I had another mess on my hands. I often fantasize my next novel is going to be a romance (not that I ever read romances...).

But recently I've decided two things:
  1. I don't choose my works, they choose me.
  2. SPEAK (and other novels like it) is probably a lot more complicated than it looks at first glance. It still has multiple characters with multiple perspectives, a mysterious backstory that needs to be unveiled, a heavy-issue theme to be dealt with.
So I've decided to just be grateful that I love writing, that inspiration chooses to strike every now and then, and to do the best I can to tell my stories. Maybe someday someone will read me and complain about how simple it all seems? HAH!

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