'Where do you get your ideas from?'
It’s a question all writers get asked. And it's almost impossible to answer.
People want there to be a single, simple answer. But there isn't.
Successful authors have a particularly tough time of it as they get asked hundreds of times a year. Stephen King, in a Q&A for The Write Channel, said:
‘I can tell you about fifty percent of the time where I got the idea. And the rest of it is totally like getting an idea in a dream and I can’t really remember where they came from.’
Neil Gaiman tells the truth:
'I make them up. Out of my head. And, surprisingly, people didn’t like to hear that. They look unhappy, as if I'm trying to slip a fast one past them, as if there's a huge secret, and, for reasons of my own, I'm not telling them how it's done. Ideas come from all over the place. You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.'
My next novel The Diabolical Club is published in July. And I'll be attending a few literary festivals and book events closer to the time. And I'm sure to be asked the same question. But this year I'll at least have a few examples to share of the sorts of places that ideas come from.
Every subscriber to the book (See here), will be getting an additional free e-book of short stories featuring characters from my little universe of South Herewardshire. It's called The Nearly Invisible Man and Other Stories and I can tell you exactly what the spark was that ignited most of stories.
One was inspired by a very surreal pub quiz that I once attended in Lancashire. Another grew out of an article I read about a hacker who’d upset a great many Americans by gaining access to their Bluetooth sex toys. And yet another came from me pondering the question of how fat a person would have to be to be bullet-proof (and how far I was off the target!). That story proved to be quite fascinating to research and led me to discover this extraordinary photo.
Which just goes to show that, inside, we're all the same.
I also found an episode of TV show Mythbusters where Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman did a series of tests using mannequins and ballistics gel to discover what depth of fat would be needed to stop a bullet before it reached any major organs.
A single idea can lead you to all kinds of amazing facts and some great stories.
But, as I said at the start, half the time ideas come out of absolutely nowhere and there's no simple, easy answer to the question.
I'll leave you with this great interview with Neil Gaiman. Enjoy.