Sunday, 12 April 2009

Where writers really get their ideas

Writers get asked a lot “where do you get your ideas from?” Most answer with some variation on “ideas are everywhere – it’s not getting them that’s hard, it’s the execution that’s the tough bit”. Unless, like me, you blame everything on evil brain sloths.

But now I can reveal to you, in a world first, that there really is a place writers go to get ideas. They don’t want you to know, in case you stumble on the next best-selling premise before they do, but it’s there, a treasure trove just waiting to be tapped. Or dug up, or whatever you do with treasure troves. And isn’t “trove” a funny word? You never hear it on its own. It’s always part of a treasure trove. Why is that?

But I digress. Back to the world first. Drum roll, please.

Ideas are free for the taking right here on the Glorious Internet. There are sites like Seventh Sanctum that do nothing but generate ideas for stories, themes, characters – whatever your writerly heart may desire. In mere moments there I had the seed of several breathtaking new novels. Check these out:

The story of Dracula as an occult rags-to-riches story. Everyone’s looking for a new take on vampires. Stephanie Meyer, eat your heart out. Not just any old angsty emo teen vampires, but The vampire, re-imagined as an angsty emo teen, just trying to make his way in a cruel world. Suffering the slings and arrows and stakes of outrageous fortune as he claws his way up from humble beginnings to the top of the Transylvanian heap.

A fusion of the story of Noah and the story of Hansel and Gretel. I’ll be on to this one just as soon as I can figure out a way to get around the likely effect of 40 days and 40 nights of rain on that trail of breadcrumbs.

A fusion of the story of Cain and Abel and the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Kind of a Day of the Triffids thing happening here, where the Beanstalk tries to kill Jack because he’s always been the favourite.

A fusion of the legend of Samson and the tale of Lady Godiva. Great potential for conflict in this one. “What do you mean, cut off my hair? How am I going to stop those peeping Toms from seeing all my jiggly bits with no hair??”

The tale of Lady Godiva being about a group of dolphins. Okay, so Seventh Sanctum’s got a thing for Lady Godiva. But see, this one proves it’s all true. Clearly, David Brin gets his ideas here. Only instead of Lady Godiva his said something like “Star Trek with dolphins instead of people”.1

So there you have it. No, don’t thank me. I’m happy to provide a public service to all struggling writers. Besides, it wasn’t my idea – I snitched it from Jaye Patrick.

Just goes to show that there really are no new ideas in the world.

1. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to get hold of a copy of his Startide Rising. Great novel!


  1. Marina, how could you reveal the secret trove? Now what will we do for ideas--they'll all get taken! ;-)

  2. Brin's six "Uplift" novels were all a fabulous read, and I loved the part the dolphins play. The only other books I know of where dolphins get starring roles would be AFterburn and Bio Rescue, by S. L. Viehl.

  3. @Pandababy: Not to forget Douglas Adam's "So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish"

    @emeraldfin: I was really inspired by your "idea-getting-process". It was fun to try out. I still prefer Holly's method, though. ;-)

  4. Jenn, I know! I'll be drummed out of the corps, or defrocked, or whatever it is for writers. I just felt it was my public duty.

    Pandababy, are they Stardoc novels? I haven't read all hers yet -- I'll have to look out for these. Love a good dolphin story!

    Cat, I agree, Holly's method is excellent. I just wish it was as easy as pressing a button on a random generator!