I often get asked where my ideas for my stories come from. I never feel like I can adequately answer this question. In fact, I find the whole question frustrating. I want to shake the person who asked me and yell at them, “Look around! There are ideas EVERYWHERE! The real question you should be asking is where do ideas NOT come from!”
And it’s really true. If you view the world in the right way there’s ideas for stories everywhere you look. Now I’ll admit they might not all be fantastic ideas that will make best selling novels, but they are there none the less. For instance, sometimes while waiting in line at the grocery check out I’ll make up a story about the person ahead of me based on what they have in their basket. If the guy ahead of me has cheese, garlic, and mouth wash, I might make up a story about a guy with a pet mouse who is secretly afraid that his upstairs neighbors are vampires, so he consumes lots of garlic to make his blood less appetizing and uses mouth wash to keep his girlfriend from finding out his fear and telling him he’s being ridiculous. Hmm… I might have to write this story now.
My point is that there’s no lack of ideas in the world. Life itself is full of drama and conflict. The essence of a good story. I often look into my own life for ideas for stories because I really believe you should write what you know just not necessarily in a literal way. I write a lot of fantasy and science fiction, so obviously the plot of those stories aren’t directly drawn from my own life, but the characters emotional experiences are. I know what it feels like to be deeply hurt, so I can write about a character going through that in any crazy context and it will still be authentic.
But the bottom line is, I don’t really know how I think of my ideas. I really mostly just feel like they fall into my head from nowhere and I’m just fortunate enough to be around to write these ideas down.
Lastly, I thought I’d share with you a writing exercise I did in my writing group last month. The prompt was simply to write about a character that was invisible for 20 minutes. This is what I came up with on the fly. I didn’t take any time to plan it out before I just started writing. I challenge you to do the same, and if you are up for it, post what you come up with in the comments!
by Lauren Soffer
Jen tried to slam the door shut, but it bounced open like it had hit something. That was not the first odd thing that day. Earlier in the fish market she kept feeling like there was someone standing right behind her. She was even sure she had imagined the feel of hot breath on the back of her neck. She had whipped around to look, but no one was there. On the way home she kept thinking she heard footsteps following her as she walked back to her apartment. She kept glancing back at the empty street.
Now the door had bounced open. She walked back to the door and shut it slowly and deliberately. Jen had prickles on the back of her neck like she was being watched again. The feeling was becoming familiar and she didn’t like it. The feeling had started the day her boyfriend Dave had vanished last week.
She had woken up that morning and he wasn’t laying next to her like he always was. That was odd in itself because he normally slept long past when she did. She thought he must have just left the bed because there was still a depression when his body had been. But when she began to look around the apartment for him he was no where to be found. However, his keys and wallet were still sitting on the table where he had left them the night before.
When his work called to ask where he was, she began to worry and called the police. When they finally agreed to let her file a missing person report after 24 hours they wanted to know if anything unusual had happened before he had disappeared.
She wondered if she should have told them about their fight the night before. The one where she complained about how he never stood up for himself at work or anywhere. How he was so quiet it was creepy sometimes. How it was like living with an invisible man.
“I’ll show you what it’s like to live with an invisible man,” he had said.
Jen had just laughed. What an odd thing to say. She didn’t mention that to the police. They would have laughed at her if they knew what she was beginning to suspect. That Dave wasn’t missing at all. That he was right there all the time. Just invisible.