Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Where Do You Get Your Ideas . . . again

One of the questions writers get asked most often is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

I think I already talked about that sometime last year. Maybe I've talked about it more than once. I could conceivably talk about it every single day because ideas are just . . . there.

They are the seed that is scattered every single day -- more seed than we could ever count -- and one day one seed will fall on ground ready to receive it. One day something someone says will strike a chord. One day a writer will see something or hear something or touch something -- and the mystery of what on earth those people in the book were muttering on about will suddenly become clear. The seed will blossom. The note will lead to another.

The book will -- finally -- get written.

Where do we get our ideas? By being receptive to whatever comes our way, by running it by our characters, listening to see if they have anything to say.

The reason I'm talking about this today is because three days ago one of my sons wrote me an email about a house going up for sale across the road from him. And because he is the eternal optimist, he thought it had great possibilities.

Of course he hadn't seen the house. So an hour later, because he isn't the sort to let grass grow under his feet, he went and introduced himself to the neighbor and asked to see it. And then he emailed me and said, "Well, there are things you'd have to do to the house. You'd have to do this and this and this." It was a fairly long list. We agreed it might not be the right house.

The next day he emailed me and said, "Every house you look at is going to be like that, you know."

Because we really like the house we live in now, except that it's not where we hope to be living full time in a couple of years, we can always think of things we'd like to be different in another house. "You really should buy a lot and build a house," he said. "That way you could have what you want."

It made a certain amount of sense. He often makes sense, but you do have to think of most of the negatives yourself, because he's not going to provide them. Not at first, anyway.

So I spent yesterday, whenever I took a break from Flynn and Sara, looking at house plans. Why not? It was a constructive way to pass the time. And I found some very interesting plans. And some very good ideas. And some architects whose thought processes mirrored how I like to think about houses and lifestyles. And so I checked to see if our library had their books. And, amazingly enough, they did.

So today I went and picked them up. And an hour spent with them this morning and I had all the rest of the pieces of my book!

The ideas I didn't even know I was missing -- except that last night I wrote a scene in which Flynn felt very content and it was such a foreign experience he was amazed -- were suddenly there -- in the books. Reading them I figured out what was missing -- Flynn's realization that Sara understands what it takes to make a home.

It might not mean anything to anyone else, but it unlocked the rest of the book for me. It was like the world came into focus.

I could see the world as Flynn saw it, as Sara saw it, as they would need to see it together in order to get to their happily ever after.

And interestingly enough, it fits right in with what I was talking about the other day about having changed the setting. Without having gone back to Elmer, I wouldn't have the house that Sara and Liam are living in. It wouldn't have the history, the connections, the sense of family that it does. And it wouldn't echo in a small American way the long history of Flynn's Irish castle. And the book wouldn't resonate the way I'm hoping that it will.

Not to mention the fact that The Not So Big House is a very good book. Some of the principles can even apply to castles. Or you can try to apply them

When I get a chance I'll have to write about it, too. Maybe it will be my next Twyla Tharp.


Blogger Kate Walker said...

Serendipity strikes again - or Ideas happen when you're looking for somethng else. Love it when that happens

And that sounds like a great book - I love your house - but it's you, the Prof and of course the dogs that make it a home and they're the portable things. Like memories

Hope that Flynn continues to be content and lets the rest of the book write itself


Word verification is notpink - written in blue. Well, yes

25 April, 2007  

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