Monday, July 17, 2006

WRITING: Coming Up With Ideas

Like a lot of other writers, I get asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" I wonder though, how many other writers get asked this by people with such befuddled looks on their faces.

For my nonfiction, I usually let my interests guide my ideas. Thus, I've done a lot of pregnancy and parenting articles, particularly about homebirth, breastfeeding, or dealing with the care and education of little ones. (Along those same lines, I've done a lot of articles about simplifying your life.) As my children get older, I've started to branch out into new things, like science and technology. Here, Rob and science magazines are my usual sources for ideas. Sometimes, editors give me ideas. I'd have never thought to learn about sex during pregnancy until Fit Pregnancy asked me to do an article. I started writing clergy interviews at the request of my editor at Montana Catholic. Recently, I wrote about Catholicism in Science Fiction for Hereditas. Overall, my idea generation is pretty straightforward.

For my fiction, things get a little weirder, but the same principles apply. I just tend to mix them up more. I was working on a series of religious orders when Rob was very involved in Artemis Society; we came up with an order of spacefaring nuns, the Order of St. Gillian of L5. Some friends and I were talking about how to confront someone who was hitting their child in a store and what that parent might be experiencing; I wrote "Lovely Hands." I wanted to give my psychic character some psychological problems (being psychic is not easy!) and had read about Neuro Linguistic Programming, so my novel takes place in an asylum. I saw an anthology requesting "dragon stories," and was racking my brains for something that hasn't been done to death. We were watching a lot of "Whose Line is It, Anyway?" and they were doing a lot of film noir shticks, so my dragon became a film noir-style fantasy/mystery/parody.

So how do I come up with these ideas? I try to take the things around me and twist them into something new.

One more thing: I don't write only what I know. How limiting and dull. I write what I can imagine and what I can learn about.

How do you come up with your ideas?

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