No Such Thing as an Idea Mill

I was going to either skip my blog this week or change the subject as another blogger I follow used a similar subject a couple days ago.  Then I decided, since I quit worrying about the same thing happening with my stories, why should I worry about it in a blog?  If people choose to think I plagiarized something I had written five years before the similar story came out (or in this case, a few days), so be it.  If I kept caring, I’d never publish or send anything out because it happens ALL THE BLOODY TIME.

So here goes.

I keep getting asked the most annoying question I can be asked as a writer.  THe question is’t what you might think.  It’s not “Have you had anything published?” or “When are you getting published?” or even “Why haven’t you been published yet?”  No, the question I most despise is one every writer seems to get, rich and famous, well-established, newly published, or simply new.  It is the dreaded “Where do you get your ideas?”

People will ask it almost every time the subject of being a writer comes up in conversation.  It’s not like we as writers can go purchase them from a warehouse.  “One idea, please, Steampunk romance with Airship Pirates if you have any left.”  (Hmmm, Steampunk could be fun . . . no!  No!  Later!)  Still, it should be an easy question to answer, or at least they think so.  Trouble is, I have no idea.  Or perhaps more accurately, they come from everywhere.

Sometimes it just pops into my head, unheeded and unasked for.  For example, Magic’s Guardian, my first actual publishing venture, got it’s very beginnings from fan fiction.  It was a fan fiction peice based on Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series.  (Ms. Hamilton, in the one-in-infinity chance you ever read this, I AM aware of your disapproval of fan fiction and had no plans whatsoever to post it anywhere.  It was for my pleasure only.  I had just finished The Laughign Corpse and there was no sign of another one and I missed Jean-Claude so I started to think, then to write.  No offence or stealing of characters intended.  I promise.)  Then I realized my original character, who developed I have no idea how or why, was in entirely the wrong setting.  So she went through some changes, going from the confident lead singer of a rock band that was going to feature in a certain creature of the night’s certain extablishment once a week without realizing the kind of magical potential she had, to a shy college student who felt she never fit in and didn’t realize magic even existed.  Then she went from the urban setting of St. Louis to the rural setting of a mountain getaway, and instead of vampires and werewolves it seemed the story should feature fairies.  I didn’t know why then, and I still don’t.

Of course then my brain started really digging in, and I thought, if I were ever going to meet a fairy, who would I want to meet?  And of course I would want to meet the most famous fairy of all, the not-particularly-nice little mischief maker Puck from my favorite of all plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  From there, since I had always imagined Puck as quite a young fellow, probably because the first painting I ever saw featuring him as a central figure, actually many paintings, showed him as a cherubic baby.   So, I think, he’s probably matured since then.  A little.  So he became an adult figure in the tradition of the larger, more human-looking fairies of European and Celtic legend, creatures that could be benevolent or cruel and either way you may want to avoid interaction at all costs.

Another novel, as yet unfinished in everything but my head, began as a dream.  It involved goblins, whose inhuman faces I can still picture, and for now I shall leave it at that.  I think GreenHaven has good potential and may follow the self-publishing route after Magic’s Guardian and its sequels.

Oh, yes, there are sequels, though in a format I’ve not seen before, with one book leading into another featuring entirely different sets of characters and types of myths.  Magic’s Guardian leads to the Hunt, featureing the Wild Hunt ( I can’t find nearly enough stories featuring the Wild Hunt as a concept, and I love the subject), leading to Moon’s Children (the title may be changed to City Dogs, I haven’t decided yet), not surprisingly dealign with werewolves, which leads to Stone Hearted dealing with vampires, leading to the last untitled novel dealing with  . . . well, everything.

There, now if something similar does pop up, I have proof that I had the idea before I read it anywhere else.

Moon’s Children also started as a dream.  Stone Hearted did not, I was deliberately trying to think of a vampire story specifically for this series, which is an unusual way for me to come up with an idea.  The last one is the same, though that plot is only sketched out in my head in the most general of ways.  The Hunt is the reason it became a series, because I wanted to write more about them after they made an appearance in Magic’s Guardian.

Other stories seemed to fall fully formed in my brain from the very firmament, pushing so hard to come out my head ached.  Okay, not really, the ache came from staring at paper or a computer screen for several hours at a time, but it was because I was compelled to get the words out.  That’s how my science fiction series started.  It started out as a three-novel series set in the world of a certain time traveler in a box with an accent.  I even sent the first one to the publishers of his ongoing book series and, though it was denied for the very reasons I knew it would be (regeneration, too much emphasis on my own character), I was actually and very specifically invited to submit something else as they were pleased with the way I wrote.  I danced when I received that letter, I truly, literally did.  It mentioned plot devices and characters by name–they had read it, for really and truly read it, and liked it even if they were not able to use it!

Of course a few months later, after I did come up with what I thought–and still think–would be a good story and even started it, they stopped accepting unagented manuscripts.  Then I cried.  And turned around and changed all the characters and much of the plot in my series to turn it into something not based in a copyrighted world.  Then they restarted the TV series after I was three-quarters done with the fourth novel.  I trashed it for many years realizing how similar it still was, then changed my mind.  I could not waste fully eight years (at the time) of work.  So I changed it further and am currently finishing the sixth novel and getting ready to send the first out to a small publisher.

So back to my original point.  My ideas can come from anywhere and nowhere.  Asking where I get them is like asking where life comes from.  There are a lot of different answers but no one really knows for absolute sure.  I don’t know if you get ideas in the same non-ways, but most writers seem to give similar answers to mine, just more succinct and probably more interesting.  Personally, I don’t care where they come from, just so they’re there and never stop.  Even if no one ever reads one of my stories, I know they’re there and have had the pleasure in living in the individual worlds for just a little while.  That’s what draws me to writing more than anything, especially since I can’t always predict my own mind and my writing can be as big a surprise to me as reading someone else’s.

So write for yourself, for enjoyment.  The love will warm your words and if you’re lucky enough to find the right way to get your stories to the masses, the masses will feel that warmth.

All kinds of love and good wishes to you, my fellow writers, be you new, old, published, or struggling.

I’d say good night but as this blog is about twelve hours later than ususal, it’s the middle of the afternoon so, instead, good day.

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