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WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM?


Writers’ Advice Blog 1 Aug 22 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction writings. In the 1 Jul 22 issue Writers’ Advice Blog, we discussed and listed out the books on writing that I use to motivate myself. In this issue we will take up ideas for a story, and what the net step is after you think of one.

As discussed in last month's advice blog, reading "how to improve writing" books and applying what you have read makes excellent use of your time, so we’ll start with that. Take Techniques of Fiction Writing, Measure and Madness, by Leon Surmelian. Most of the book presents what the author calls "measure." Measure is technique, i.e., how to present your story to readers.

A much smaller part of the book deals with madness. Madness looks into the mind of the writer. An idea for a story, plot, character or theme just pops out of the writer's mind, either consciously or subconsciously. The idea might be nebulous; it might be specific. One thing it isn't: it isn't yet in readers' minds. It is not structured, not communicated yet. It does not have form. It's in the writer's mind. It rambles around in there unexpressed.

This madness lies not in the crazy person in the nuthouse. That's psychosis. An emotional or mental illness. No, the madness Surmelian refers to resides in all people. Ideas come to us from nowhere. Where the writer is unique is in translating her or his ideas such that readers can connect to them.

People sometimes ask fiction writers, from where do get your ideas? The writer can answer the question, if he or she wishes, by giving many sources: books, movies, talking to people, family, memories, etc. Truthfully though, ideas just pop into the writer's head. Something could precede that, and the writer might give that thing the genus of the idea. He or she doesn't know, however.

99.9% of the writer's work is communicating the idea to readers. The idea comes with no work at all. Related work might lie in rejection of the idea, why it is inappropriate, etc., but the idea itself simply pops up, so let’s forget about it. In life everybody generates more ideas than she or he could ever use, and in fact, most ideas never get beyond that stage.

A writer has no monopoly on ideas. Joe says to his friend, “I have an idea how to package bacon at half the cost of current methods.” Putting his idea into practice requires work, however, using effective business, entrepreneurial and financial methods. The writer uses some of the same methods, although more so, methods unique to the craft of writing for readers, i.e., characterization, theme, plotting, pacing, setting ‒ anything in fact that goes into a story.

Just as the businessperson cannot succeed if no one buys her or his product, the writer will fail if no one reads his or her story.


Next month’s blog will post around 1 Sept. In it I discuss improving your writing and provide a tip that will assist you in improving your writing skill 100%. No lie.

Note: The book of short speculative fiction "Eve of Valor: 25 Tales" is available on Amazon at click

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