If you’ve been writing fiction for a while, even if you are not a big name, chances are good that you’ve come upon this question: “Where do you get your ideas?” This is especially true if you happen to write—as I do—imaginative fiction.
Now, I have noticed that many writers—even among the big names—seem to struggle with this question, either claiming ignorance or offering vague replies. I’ve often wondered why this is. It is, of course, possible that they are being honest and don’t truly know where they get their ideas. This is possible; though, I’ll admit, this seems doubtful to me.
The reason for my doubts is that I’ve always known where I get my ideas from. I get my ideas from four major sources: Mythology, Literature, Art, and the normal dialogue I maintain with life. Allow me to explain these four in greater detail.
My first reading obsession was with mythology. From about the age of ten to the age of fifteen, I read every single book on mythology I could get my hands on. However, unlike most kids who enjoy reading myths and legends, my taste were not Greco-Roman—although I did enjoy these, as well. Instead, I was strongly attracted to older and stranger myths; specifically, Sumerian and Akkadian. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of my first loves. Also, and even though Dracula is one of my favorite books, the definitive vampire, for me, is the Edimmu—ghost like creatures that drained life from the living and were ugly, fearsome, malevolent, and smart. Plain and simple, mythology is a goldmine of ideas.
Literature goes without saying—but I’m saying it anyways. I read a lot. It’s February 22nd as I write this. So far, I have read 13 novels this year. Every time you read, you get a story idea. It really is that simple. All you have to do is ask questions—what if the story went this way instead of that? Or, what if the character was more likable? Questions are your friends; they generate ideas.
When it comes to art, I will just say this: writing is painting with words. If you can describe a work of art, you’re doing good. If you can describe a work of art while evoking an emotional response, you’re doing great.
Finally, if you interact with life, you will get many ideas. Interacting with life, this means maintaining a dialogue with life, which involves asking questions and genuinely searching for their answers.
So here you have it. This is where I get my ideas from.