Where do the ideas come from?

Since I wrote my first book many (really too many) years ago, that has got to be the most popular question that I’ve heard. Inquirers look at these carefully crafted worlds and emotionally overwrought characters and wonder how one person could possibly create all that and then do it again and again and again for book after book and until the very last breath… Amen.

And the truth is simple:  Everything is a story waiting to be written.

No, seriously.

Everything you see, read, feel, hear (or even better, overhear) is a seed waiting to be planted and nourished into a story.

Let me give you an example…

I was reading an article in The Atlantic titled “Mark Zuckerberg and the End of Language.” I was reading it for work, wondering if Facebook had found a new way to mine our personal data and sell it off to the highest bidder in the ongoing quest to destroy any remnants of privacy in America (not that individuals aren’t doing a fine job of abandoning all notions of privacy in their need to eradicate the allure of mystery from their lives).

In the article, two sentences struck me:

“Words are an obstacle to honesty, rather than means of delivering it.”

“People lie, brains don’t.”

A hundred other people could read that article about technological advances for telepathy and taken different nuggets that could lead to books, but those were the two sentences that called out to me.

And from that my mind wondered:

What if we lived in a world where we could only speak the truth? Not that it was a law but a biological imperative. Would that mean that we’d be more honest with each other or would be just speak a whole lot less?  And what would happen if one person was born with the ability to lie?

Or how about…

What if we could make our brains lie? Is that just a form of insanity? Our senses are taking in the world around us as Blue but our brain is telling us that everything is Orange. What if you know there’s a disconnect and you’re pushing your entire life to get a glimpse of understanding of what everyone else is seeing? And that final moment, what do you feel when it’s achieved? Elation? Disappointment? Horror? Or simply confusion because you can’t understand Blue.

Or what if the narrator is telling you it’s Orange and you have to believe him because he’s the narrator, only to discover that everything is truly Blue on the last page.

Or maybe the lying has become a self-defense mechanism when the government can read our brains. So as humans, we’ve learned that every word out of our mouths needs to be a lie as a last act of defiance and assertion of self.

Or something else…

That’s where ideas come from.  You take a notion, a picture, a quick set of scribbled words and you start to twist them around. Put them in a blank world and you let them run wild.

I may never do anything with the lines I’ve snagged from that article.  I’ll just email them along with a link to the article to myself, placing them in a folder of random ideas that intrigued me.  When I’m between books and looking for a fresh idea, I’ll dig through that folder, looking for something to grab me by the throat.

The mind is a house. New concepts and idea come in through the front door (though most are filtered through a screen door) and saunter in to the logical center of my brain. But I keep a window open to the creative side of my brain.  Story ideas sneak off and climb in through the window (and there’s no screen there to filter them).