One of the most frequently asked questions for authors and writers is “where do your story ideas come from?” And every author has a different answer.
Brooke Passmore and Bethany Atazadeh came up with a Story Idea Writing Tag back in 2018. There are ten questions in the Story Idea Writing Tag (link is located at the end of the post), all dealing with how authors get their ideas and what they do with them once they have the spark of an idea.
As usual, I dawdled and put off answering some of these tag, but recently, I’ve been looking at tag videos on YouTube and enjoying the quick glimpses into other authors’ stories and writing processes, so I thought I would add my two cents.
CURRENT STORY: What is your current story idea that you’re working on right now?
I am working on a fantasy YA novel. In a world of magic and swords, a teenage boy desperately wants any kind of magic at all in order to have a better life, only to find himself becoming the wielder of dark magic, the owner of a familiar known to be a harbinger of death, the target of a kingdom wide manhunt; and he realizes that the dark god of death wants something from him.
I mentioned this WIP in my AuthorTube Newbie Tag post.
SPARK OF INSPIRATION: Do your ideas begin with characters, plot, world building, or something else entirely?
My story ideas typically begin with a “what if” question. My current story, for example, started with the question, “what if a character in a fantasy world where magic is commonplace couldn’t use magic? What if he or she is willing to do anything to have even just a sliver of magic. Then what if he or she winds up with magic, but it’s the kind of magic that everyone is afraid of? Would he or she regret having magic?
BRAINSTORM: How do you puzzle piece your story elements together? Do you start with the ending and make your way to the beginning or vice versa?
I typically start at the beginning of the story, although I am also a fan of opening the story in the middle of chaos and having the character do the whole, “Now, how did I get here?” thing. It’s a way to start the story in medias res, but then backtrack to chronological order. It’s a trick that’s a favorite of mine since I’m indecisive and never know where exactly I would prefer the story to begin.
KEEP OR TOSS: How do you know when you want to keep or dump a story idea?
I’ve never consciously made this decision. It just happens when I leave a story alone for long enough. A few of my drafts I printed out and they sit in folders in the bottom drawer. Other drafts that I didn’t print out die when I switch computers and they don’t get migrated, or the files are corrupted for being too old to convert to the new writing processor software. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft Word!)
ORIGINAL IDEA: How much of your original idea for your story is actually used once everything is finished?
Not all the original idea gets used. When I write, I try to have some semblance of an outline, but not all the details are filled out. During the writing process, I tend to get inspired to go in a different direction for scenes, or when I want ideas to happen, so the draft changes significantly from what the outline dictates.
HIDE OR SHARE: Do you share your book ideas with friends or keep them a secret?
Mostly I have hidden my past story ideas, although I did share a few over the years. However, that is changing now that I am sharing more here on the blog and on The Dawdling Writer YouTube channel.
DREAM: Have any of your story ideas originated with a dream or nightmare?
Yes, absolutely! I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to tell myself stories while falling asleep. Perhaps that exercise means that my brain is often more active while I dream, because I regularly have vivid story dreams. I have kept a dream journal for several years, because I have gotten tired of losing new story ideas when I am so sure (while mostly asleep) that I will remember the idea in the morning (spoiler, I usually don’t).
DOPPLEGANGER: Have you ever had an idea for a story, but then see a similar premise in a book, tv-show, or movie?
I don’t think that I’ve seen exactly the same premise, but I do know that my stories fall into story plot archetypes like “rags to riches,” “the quest,” or “overcoming the monster.” One of the best things about writing is that two people can write about the same event or idea, and their perspective on life, their bias, and their experiences will make the resulting work very different.
There is nothing new under the sun, after all.
BIG SCREEN INSPIRATION: Have any of your favorite tv-shows or movies sparked ideas for scenes in your story?
There isn’t one particular show or movie that comes to mind, but when I write fight scenes, I often visualize the choreographed fights in things that I have seen. That extra visualization for movement helps me write more action into the scene than if I just wrote it through imagination. After all, I’ve never been in a fight, so I can’t imagine it based on experience.
NOSTALGIA: What’s the oldest or first original story idea you remember coming up with or writing down?
I wrote a story about a little girl getting bitten and transforming into a werewolf. I wrote about it in my “Why I’m Afraid to Share My Writing,” post, so if you want to read about it in detail, feel free.
That has been the 10 questions in the Story Idea Writing Tag. Make sure you check out Brooke’s original video, and if you wind up completing this tag after seeing mine, please do comment and send me the link to your version of this tag.
Bethany’s video has since been privated, but here is the link to Brooke’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkFfH8sl3Zs