One of the questions writers get most often is, where do you get your ideas? Now as much as I’d like to be a smartass and answer that I get them from my local tea shop with biscuits on the side, cream and two sugars, I know that’s not right. It certainly doesn’t help you understand what it’s like, which for whatever reason, is fascinating. The truth is that writers’ brains are rather like Tesla Coils.
Sparks of ideas are everywhere in the air. I’ve talked with many writers and while we’re all different, we’re all the same in the fact that anything can generate an idea. Reading the back of a cereal box, a snippet of conversation in an elevator, stumbling across an interesting fact in a magazine article or during a visit to a place on a child’s field trip. Heck, I even got an idea once for a novel while sitting in a college botany class and I found out aphids are born pregnant (which started me on a whole story set of messing with cross-DNA hybridization and what would happen if you crossed aphid DNA with human DNA for an easily reproduced, cheap source of workers.) But I digress. As a writer you simply look at the world differently.
Our brains are somehow wired at just the right frequency to pick up that spark of idea out of the ether and created an electrical connection with it. (Which, I believe, is a valid reason why so many writers can pick up the same story idea at the same time, and yet each story will turn out differently.) From there the light and intensity of those ideas grows to such a degree that it is perfectly obvious to those around us if we don’t release those ideas we might potentially explode. Hey, it’s either that or talk these stories and characters out of our heads to a therapist which would require us to take on yet another day job just to pay for the numerous sessions. It’s simply much easier to write it down!
The pulse of energy and light you see is the resulting book. It’s the result of amplifying those ideas, letting them bounce around, connecting with other particles of ideas until they are finally released. While I tend to plot, like Marie-Claude does, I usually only have bits of the ideas. The book isn’t fully formed in my head until I begin writing it only because as the characters grow and change they add extra things that I didn’t think of before which deepen the story. In some ways I discover things about the world I’m writing in (regardless of how much research I’ve done previously) that I didn’t know before.
For instance, in my current book, The Hunter, I didn’t realize the whole historical dynamic of the Hunter/Darkin relationship. Sure my characters are modern Victorian Hunters, but when I started peeling back where they’d come from, how the Book of Legend they are seeking came to be and why it was scattered across the globe, a whole history (which you may never even see in the stories) started to emerge. It’s a legacy that impacts my three brothers and echoes the past relationship of the three brothers back in the Dark Ages who originally scattered the book to protect it.
So you see, in many ways, writers’ brains are like Tesla Coils. We store ideas, gather them from the air and release them in short, powerful bursts people can actually identify as books. But the proces of gathering those ideas, storing them up, working with them is always ongoing. That’s why writers often carry something to jot notes down because ideas can hit anywhere and any time. I even knew one writer who had a waterproof diving tablet so she could take notes in the shower.
And while writers can convey those ideas in a brilliant display of light called a book, we also need a receptor, a reader to make the transfer of those ideas complete. So see, you the reader are an integral part to how a writer’s brain is like a Tesla Coil. What can I tell you? Writers are just on a different frequency.