Friday, November 19, 2010

The Idea

When most famous authors are interviewed, they are always asked, "Where do you get your ideas?"  Their answers are usually either based on something profound or they are messing with the interviewer. 

"I fell and hit my head on the toilet and I had a vision of this...the flux capacitor." 

Wait...somebody already did that.  Anyway, for me it wasn't anything that dramatic, although to this day I still don't quite know why my brain wandered in the direction it did.  It went something like this:

I was standing in the bathroom, slipped and hit my head... Just kidding.  I was actually sitting in the bathroom, occupied with a daily function which for me seems more important than, say, breathing, when I decided it was time to write.  My friend at work had just published his first novel (well, not at that exact second) and after talking to him at length about it (once again, not at that exact second) I felt the urge (not that urge...OK let's get the hell out of the bathroom for this scene).

At work now, I went through in my mind an idea which had rattled around in my head for ten years or so.  It involved Air Traffic Controllers (write what you know) and terrorists.  But as I sat in the cafeteria, pen in hand, I couldn't seem to get very excited about it.  Maybe it was because I had thought about the idea off and on for so long, or maybe I didn't want to write about what I do every day.  Probably the latter.  So, I thought hard...thought a little harder...and finally just gave up.  Great start huh?

I went back to work.  And as I was telling some general aviation pilot he'd better climb better, an idea jumped into my head.  What if a guy, we'll call him Peter, was flying his plane and he had a mid-air with a vampire.  Inspiration!  I turned to the controller next to me and said, "Would you read a story about a pilot who had a mid-air with a vampire?"

He just looked at me and said, "No."

"What if the pilot was on a suicide mission, eating a cheeseburger, and he had a mid-air with a vampire?  Wouldn't that be cool?"

My friend rolled his eyes but did not respond.  OK...strike one.

The next day I'm back at work but on my break in the cafeteria again, reading the latest Lee Child novel and wishing I could tell a story like he can, when a thought occurred to me.  What if a bunch of kids at a special school were learning how to become wizards and they all decided to hijack an airplane and fly it to Istanbul, but on the way, they had a mid-air with a vampire who sparkled in the sunlight.  Yeah baby!  I jumped up and ran into the control room to tell my friend.

He told me to never talk to him again.  Dammit!  Strike two!  What the 'F'?

Later that night as I'm listening to some pop singer tell his girlfriend he was sorry, he couldn't afford a Ferrari, Zombies invaded my brain.  I called my friend and said, "What if Zombies took over the world but were later killed by vampires flying around in airplanes?"

'Click' and then a dial-tone.  Strike three!

Alright...enough.  What I'm getting at is for the most part, most writers don't just sit around trying to think up things to write about.  It usually happens as one lone arbitrary thought links up with another lone arbitrary thought and when the two are put together, something interesting usually occurs.  For me it just surfaced out of the blue while I was surfing on the internet.  One idea connected with another and presto, it spoke to me.  What was the idea?  When it gets closer to publishing time, I'll let you know.  I promise it has nothing to do with vampires, wizards, zombies or cheeseburgers.

Let's hear some of your ideas.  Ha!


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