To kick off my blog series I thought that I’d write about something fun and light-hearted. People ask me all of the time: “Where do you get your ideas?” That’s a really great question. And it’s one that I know many people ponder. On a pretty regular basis I hear people say: “I wish I could write a book, but I really don’t know where to start.”
So where do I get my ideas? In truth, I get them from everywhere. Everything around me, everything in life, is the source for a potential story idea. William Shakespeare famously wrote; “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…”
Everything around me is fair game for inspiration. For me, personally, my least frequent method of inspiration is from dreams. At that’s only because I never remember them. I’d swear that I don’t dream at all. Most nights, I close my eye and go to sleep and a void of quiet blackness awaits. It’s not a scary void, but rather a comforting void with the familiarity of an old friend. But those nights that I do dream (or at least remember them), the dreams are so vivid that I’d swear it really happened. So far, two of my books have been inspired by dreams. A crime fiction book that’s coming out in a few months called The Fall, was inspired by a dream. I dreamt the first 2/3rds of the book one night after watching too many episodes of the show Bones right before bed. That book was originally going to be a standalone novel, but I’ve since been further inspired and now it will become book 1 of The Uranium Lily Casefiles.
The second dream-inspired book is Unity, which is book 7 of the Starsong Chronicles: Exodus-Arc. Chapter 1 came to me in a dream almost a decade ago now. I actually started writing Unity first, but I had too many questions, so I worked on backstory. 16 more books were planned out as a result. They weren’t directly inspired by a dream, but they were the result of it.
Sometimes, I like to write about things that I don’t necessarily agree with. If you ever took an introductory Philosophy class in college, you know the exercise – they make you write an essay defending the position that’s opposite your own. I do this sometimes as well. I wrote a short story called A Question of Life, that’s part of the Question of the Day anthology. I don’t necessarily believe what I wrote. But I find that writing can sometimes be a great vehicle for exploring other ideas and concepts. What would it really be like if it happened like this? What would people think? How would they feel?
Sometimes, I like to write about deliberate things that are intended to be a cautionary tale. I have a love-fear relationship with technology. I guess you could look at it like a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I generally like technology and I largely embrace it. And certain things that terrify others, like a worker transporter device, I would use. But, I do worry about other things, like our advancements with AI. Sure, there’s the whole Terminator trope where the robots want to kill all humans because humans are bad and destroying the earth, or each other, or the robots, or whatever and the robots are actually misguided “saviors”. But that’s not what scares me. My educational background is psychology. I was working on my PhD in psychology before I had to drop out during dissertation due to lack of funding. The thing that scares me about AI, is that we program the robots to be like us. And how could we not? That’s all we know. We can’t possibly program them to be something that we don’t know or understand ourselves. Humans are terrifying. We’re mean, we’re inconsistent, we’re illogical, and in many cases completely inhumane to each other. And we are making AI in our image. Should we be really surprised if they turn out like us? One book I wrote explores some of these concepts. What happens if AI is like us – they have a fairly rational thought or desire, but then develop a completely irrational and illogical way of achieving that? How unpleasant would that be?
Other times I like to turn a classic trope upside-down. For example, The Ambassador is another book I’m working on. It’s book 2 of the The Uranium Lily Casefiles. It’s a classic who-done-it story, except instead of trying to figure out who has the motive to kill the victim, the heroes are faced with a scenario where everyone they talk to has a motive to want the victim dead. What do you do when everyone is a legitimate suspect? How does that change your investigation?
Sometimes, I get inspired by other, more obscure sources. I’m not going to say too much about it now because it’s still very much a work-in-progress, but I have a new sci-fi series coming out called Celtia Nova. The entire basis for that story is a retelling of a different story, with a twist. I’m also using that story line to explore philosophical concepts about evolution and efficiency.
Another book in The Uranium Lily Casefiles was partially inspired by some real-life drama that I went through recently. (I’m not going to elaborate, so please don’t ask). But, it made me realize how desperate some people are to have a specific outcome work out in their favor, and how irrational and crazy they might become in pursuit of that outcome. How far would people go to get what they want? How far would an unbalanced person go to achieve that same result?
The point of all of this, is that there is inspiration everywhere if you have a little imagination. Stop just seeing things for what they appear to be and start asking questions. How did it get here? What would happen if it wasn’t here? What if it was different? What if I were different? Stop seeing things with your eyes alone, and look at everything with a sense of wonder and the ideas will come. Even as I write this, sipping my coffee, an idea is forming inspired by my coffee…