Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Conflux Part 3: Where do you get your ideas?

THIS panel saw many audience members bring along notepads, ready to take down advice from myself, moderator Richard Harland, Sabrina de Souza and star panellist and Voyager author Jack Dann.
My take on it was two-pronged. First you need your characters, and finding them in everyday life is certainly one way. You need characters that interest you, and sometimes that even comes just from a feeling. TWG’s Martil was inspired by thoughts of redemption, of a man coming back from a dark place because of a child’s love.
Perhaps my most useful statement was my belief that human history is rife with fantastic stories, tales of extraordinary heroism and hope, many of which can be adapted to a fantasy setting.
One of the principle inspirations for TWG (although it does not take place until Risen Queen) was the battle of Pilleth, when Owain Glyndwr defeated the English. Look it up on Google - it is an extraordinary tale.
But in the trilogy are such things as the massacre of Srebrenica, the atrocity at My Lai in Vietnam, the taking of Babylon by King Darius, the Zulu victory at Isandhlwana, the taking of Tenochtitlan and Mayan sacrifice rites.
Richard and Jack both often use dreams for ideas, while I also take feelings and impressions from music - some lyrics can really strike a note with me.
Probably the thing I took from this panel, although we did not really sum it up for the people there, was that ideas are everywhere.
One idea will not make a book, let alone a trilogy. You need many ideas - ideas for plot, ideas for characters, ideas about the lands they are in, ideas about what happens to them.
Write ideas down, keep a pad by your bed to record dreams and thoughts there - and be prepared to let stories percolate around in the back of your head for a while. Sometimes thinking, not writing, can be just as productive.
Jack had the classic line that a fellow writer was once asked where he gets his ideas from and replied: “ I send $5 a month to a little old lady in Albuquerque and she sends me five ideas back”.
But when the writer tried this joke at a US convention, there was a massive line of people wanting the lady’s address!
If only it were that easy!
I get ideas from the Australian countryside, from everything I see, from people I meet, from dreams, feelings and impressions gained from music and movies.
The trick is turning them into something a publisher is willing to pay for!

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