The best writers are enchantresses. Their books bewitch us. But how do they cast their magic? This is the question that lingers after I finish a superb novel, and I’ll research the writer to try to answer it, delving into those sources readily available on the internet—reviews, biographies, interviews. I especially enjoy reading the interviews and getting the inside scoop on the author’s life, like the time of day she writes, the snacks she eats, the books she calls her favorites. I relish these details. The admissions of rituals and preferences compel me, as if such minutiae were the stuff of alchemy.
There is one interview question, however, that frequently and obviously rubs authors the wrong way: “Where do you get your ideas?” And honestly, the most common retort rubs me the wrong way: “I go to the idea store and buy a good one.” It’s blatantly snarky (and sadly unoriginal. Writers grumble this all the time. They must also visit the cliché store).
Maybe the sarcasm is a way to hide uncertainty and fear, for the truth is, probably few writers know exactly where they get their ideas. The ideas seem to beget themselves. (And—eek—what if they stop spontaneously reproducing?)
This is true for me, too, of course. Sometimes I’ll read over a story that I’ve recently drafted and find myself scratching my head and asking, “Where did this come from?”
So though I wish I could divulge the secret source from which powerful ideas spring, I’m not sure what that source is. But I do have an inkling of where intriguing ideas lurk, and I want to share a few of these nooks, crevices, and dark corners with you. [Read more…]