Monday, December 12, 2011


'Where do you get your ideas from?'

It's the question authors are asked most regularly, often in a tone that suggests if only we would tell the audience, they could all go there and get some too.

I've tried various responses: the jokey, 'Well, there's this site on the internet. Standard ideas don't cost much, and even second-hand ones are quite affordable, but an original one? Prepare to mortgage the house.'

Then there's the earnest list of methods: wide reading, newspapers, TV news programmes, photographs, observation - eavesdropping, even. I can spend quite a long time on that reply.

If I'm being truthful, I just say, 'I don't know.' I wish I did, particularly at the moment when I'm starting to think about a new book.

The one I'm finishing feels like a pair of old slippers. I've worked it into the shape I want it to be and we're familiar friends now. I'm past the subdued panic stage when you're not at all sure it's going to work out, and now it's just a case of smoothing out rough patches and cutting adverbs I'm sure the book still has a couple of commas that would benefit from being full stops and a few 'which'es that ought to be 'that's. It's quite a soothing occupation, and I'm no more ready to let it go than I am to throw out my battered pink furry slippers, bought in an American Wall-Mart more years ago than I would care to mention.

But soon, I'm going to have to step out into unknown territory. I'm going to have to get to know new characters, see if they're going to speak to me, find out what's going to happen to them. And I need an idea that's going to drive me day after day for the next year or so. It's a scary business.

If anyone has that internet address, perhaps you could let me have it.


Rick Blechta said...

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Charlotte Hinger said...

Often my ideas are generated by a reaction to people. And sometimes my feelings don't make sense. If I have a distinctly viseral reaction to someone--it's the basis for a character.