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25 February 2014

LTUE Insight - Ideas are aliens

I've never heard a writer ask another writer where they got the idea for their book. That's kind of one of those questions a non-writer might ask, where the writers in the room will roll their eyes as the person questioned makes something up.

I was thinking that maybe writers should ask that question every once in a while. Sure, ideas are a dime a dozen. I can sit down with a piece of paper, do word/idea associations, and in twenty minutes come up with twenty different ideas for a story. And I'm slow.

As a writer though, I'm not interested in just an idea. I'm looking for the right idea. Actually I'm looking for the perfect idea. Perfect ideas are not cheap.

I like what Stephen King says:
"Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky. . . your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up."
If Frank Herbert were still alive, I probably wouldn't be all that interested in asking him where he got the idea for Dune Messiah or Children of Dune. Those are fine books but I would guess he got those by asking himself what if questions based off the first book.

Dune though. Hey, when that one sailed out of the air, holy crap. How did Frank sort through the good ideas and the bad ones to come up with that masterpiece? That would be worth knowing. Even for him, apparently. He only wrote one Dune. I'm not discounting all of his other works. He was a brilliant writer, but Dune is arguably the greatest science fiction book ever written. He never even approached that again.

So how do you consistently recognize good story ideas when they come? Strike that. How do you recognize perfect story ideas when they come? I don't see why you should even bother writing the good ones? I want perfection.

Problem is, if you believe King, those ideas come down out of the sky like an alien wanting to probe and measure. I say it might be a good idea to find those writers who have just been probed and ask them where they got their idea.