Sunday 8 March 2015

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? by Jason Rohan

One of the questions I occasionally get asked by MG readers is, "Where do you get your ideas from?" The short answer I give is that I'm always on the lookout for shiny new ideas, like a literary magpie, and when I have enough of them sparkling in my brain I gather them together into a glittering story web. That's the gist, at least.

Inspiration comes from all around. Sometimes, it's an unusual name such as Angelo De'Ath, which conjures up all kinds of mental images. Or it's an intriguing newspaper story or photograph, such as this one:

The essence, for me, is to remain curious and to ask questions. Popular science websites such as Science Daily, National Geographic or New Scientist provide a wealth of core ideas on anything from invisibility cloaks to robotic exoskeletons. As a writer, I can run with any of these and see where it takes me.

If we look at the story essentials of Character, Setting and Plot, I can show how an idea might germinate in my mental compost.

For example, a friend sent me a list of real actor names as she knows I'm always on the lookout for character ideas and two jumped out at me: Erica Bloodsaw and Aleksandr Bible. Putting them together, we get Bloodsaw and Bible. That immediately makes me think of a pair of outlaws who hunt down undead creatures.

I find Atlas Obscura to be an invaluable source of interesting settings. It's a site that collects curious places around the world such as the abandoned island featured in Skyfall and a tropical indoor beach in Germany. As a practical example, I was inspired by the G-Cans Project below to include it in my upcoming book, The Shield of Kuromori

For Plot, I recently came across the concept of seasteading - massive floating cities operating in international waters and therefore out of jurisdiction for national laws. A setting like this opens up a huge range of plot possibilities which I explore by asking What If? and What Next?

If I were so inclined, I could pull all these random thoughts together to set a story on a lawless floating city. Illegal genetic experiments are taking place. Something goes wrong and a crack team led by Bloodsaw and Bible are HALO-dropped in. Throw in some sea monsters, a storm, a powered exoskeleton and we're cooking on gas!

As the old joke goes, the problem isn't coming up with ideas - it's stopping them from filling up my head. So many stories waiting to be told, so little time.

Those are some of my wellsprings. What about yours? Where do you find inspiration?

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