ing Stuff Up, or How to Get From A to B
by Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)
The best and worst question a writer can get is “where do your ideas come from?” Just ask a writer and see what happens. They hem and haw. They get a bit flustered and check their watch. Then they ask for a cupcake.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Ideas come from everywhere and nowhere. My stories are filled with bits and pieces of my life, as well as things that I’ve never experienced (and never will). My experiences of working for NASA, traveling across the country, and falling in love all play into it. It’s part of your Voice and who you are as a writer. But coming up with specific ideas for actual stories is a bit more complicated.
When I first started writing, I just sat down and started. I had no idea where I was going, so what filled the page was often a lot of meandering, but usually in a logical progression. Walk down the street; turn right; turn left. The idea of where to turn came when I reached a fork in the road.
Later in my writing journey, I brought a map. I knew vaguely where I wanted to go, and I had something that resembled directions, but it was really more like a landscape with elevations and contours and somehow I had left my compass behind. Writing was like heading to the store by walking down the street, three left turns and we’ll be somewhere in the vicinity. I might even get snacks, if I could only hop that last plot hole. I had to get a little inventive to get to the finish line, but writing was still usually just going from point A to point B.
Along the way, my writing evolved into a conflict centered process. I knew exactly where my characters needed to go and vaguely how to get there. Then I put them in a box they couldn’t possibly get out of. I tossed the map, and dumped on the table all the ingredients we had to play with. Duct tape, a section of hose, a ball of twine and a puppy. Ideas were thrown around, turned upside down, and tormented. Finally, the character would climb out of the hole. Only to fall in another. Rinse. Repeat.
This was where my creative engine really started to hum. But I couldn’t have possibly started there. It would have stalled out in a cold panic and never started again.
I recently gave some advice to someone dear to me, who was considering picking up the pen again after a long hiatus. She wanted to know if she should get some books on plotting, so she would have some idea of what to write, before she actually wrote it. I said books on plotting were like a GPS—great for giving you directions to somewhere you already wanted to go. But I told her she was just a baby, trying to figure out how to haul herself up on her two feet and get across the room. Babies don’t need a GPS. They need determination.
And new writers need to just write.
So, it turns out, I started in exactly the right place without knowing it.
While I was writing Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy), I went through all these stages of idea generation. First, choosing logically how the world would unfold. Then, having some idea of where the story needed to go. Finally, building the conflicts so that my characters had to fight their way through the story.
The idea for a mindreading world came in a flash of brain spark. But coming up with mindware interfaces, mindreading range ordinances, and scribepads? That was all crunching away at problems thrown up by the story itself. I invented a flushable garbage system because Kira needed to get rid of something so that it wouldn’t be found. I created a paper book pod in the library, because it made sense that paper books would be long gone, and I needed a secluded spot for the scene. I dreamed up mindware interfaces because the tech guys were sure to have built some way to read thoughts.
So, where do my ideas come from? They are beaten out of my brain by hours at the keyboard, imagining all kinds of ways that things can go wrong, and then eventually go right. There’s no shortcut. Writing is one of the purest forms of creativity, and that stuff works your brain like crazy.
Have a cupcake. J
See more guest posts about Open Minds at the Virtual Launch Party
When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.
Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).
Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.)
Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):
1) Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post
2) Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)
Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA avail NOW http://bit.ly/psX1Hh
Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW http://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds
3) Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)
Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!