Monday, October 19, 2009

Where do ideas hit you?

When do ideas come to you? Is there a specific time or place?

Not for me.

When I am working on a new WIP, I am consumed with working out the details, especially if there are puzzles that I need to solve.

I'm not talking about puzzles like those used in the Da Vinci Code. I'm talking about the fact that I need a character to show a particular characteristic, or behavior, and their actions need to seem believable.

It really irks me when an author has a character do something that is completely not how the character would act, but the author has done it to move the story along, or setup some other plot point.

That's why it is so important that all these elements fit together, and also why it's a puzzle that needs to have all the pieces fit together perfectly.

The puzzle pieces don't just come to me as I write. I usually know the ending of my story, and I am trying to advance the story to get there. I need certain actions to happen. I need characters to feel a certain way. Coming up with reasonable explanations takes a long time.

The ideas hit me at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes it is at work, and I can quickly jot them down on my computer, or a notebook. Sometimes it happens while I'm driving, and I use the voice record feature on my phone to record a message.

Sometimes it happens when I'm otherwise busy, doing a set at the gym, taking a shower, or taking in a movie at a theater. Those are the most annoying, because I have to work hard to remember them until I can jot them down later.

When do your ideas hit? And what do you do to make sure you don't lose them?


  1. The ideas usually hit me at the most inconvenient of times . . .

    . . . just as I'm about to drift off to sleep.
    . . . in the shower, no pen/paper handy.
    . . . in the car, on the Interstate, no convenient stoplights handy so I can jot down a note or two.
    . . . on a walk with the dogs.
    . . . in a bar filled with people.

    Oh, the places are many where the idea first strikes.


  2. Ditto what Scott said.
    I also get them from eavesdropping, the news (putting a twist on a story), or real life.

  3. Usually just as I'm going to sleep. How do I keep the idea? I repeat one phrase over and over in my head; it's always there in the morning.


  4. Many of mine also turn up just as I'm going to sleep but I've learned not to hope I'll remember them in the morning. On my beside table I have paper and a clickable pen that has a light in it, and I wake myself up enough to jot down a key word or two. Often the idea comes in the form of an image... a mental photograph showing someone doing something... and after making a note of it I settle back to drowsing with the image playing out. Some mornings I recall the "dream" and it's very useful. Other times I can't and it's frustrating!

  5. Many times ideas hit me when I'm least expecting it. Maybe my mind is more open to them when it's relaxed, but I find that more you try to force it, the tougher it is to irrigate a steady flow of ideas.

  6. I'm a people watcher. I imagine where they're going and why they're doing what I see. That's when a story idea hits me, some quirky thing or situation.

    The best place is listening to kids, you never know what they'll say. Watching how teens respond to each other is another rich source.

  7. I have notebooks, pens & scraps of paper everywhere but especially by my bedside for those early hour inspirational moments.


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