|The Idea Factory
||[Jan. 24th, 2008|01:32 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
Over at Whatever, John Scalzi's blog (which I read through his LJ feed, scalzifeed), John asked Where do you get your ideas?
Which is one of those questions that established writers ALWAYS get and many of them come up with some cute and clever answer (like "Schenectady" or "mail order") that's easier than trying to explain a process that is either really complicated or one that they don't necessarily understand themselves.
And I always thought it odd, because I constantly have ideas. My problem is much more with execution than with generating ideas.
But recently I asked myself, So Coop, why the hell DO you constantly have ideas? and the answer was, because I constantly tell myself stories.
And when I heard that answer, I said I do?! and I realized that I do! It's one of them there defensive mechanisms. I hate, more than anything in the world, to be bored. It chafes. And what's a smart kid in a public school system? Bored! Plus, I was lonely a lot as well. So, as a bored and lonely kid, I told myself stories about pretty much everything. A drop of water on the wall, the answers on a multiple choice test (especially those fill-in-the-circle kind; A and B were the hero and heroine, but sometimes, when they were on the outs, A dated C... D was evil and always trying to ruin the lives of A, B, and C while E was that bad boy on whom B had a secret crush), the birds outside, the rocks in my pocket, the secret space inside of ping pong balls, etc. Everything and anything was fodder.
I suspect, given tools and encouragement, I would've taken shit apart and then either tried to put it back together or made art out of the pieces. I always desperately wanted to know what was inside things and how they worked. Barring that, I read. I always had a book on me, either in my bag or in a pocket (still tend to do that). Reading gives you tons of ideas as well.
Sometimes I notice that my brain is still telling stories. Like barcodes that won't scan at the comic shop are designed by evil bastards who want to kill comics, but all they have are musty basements instead of evil lairs, except - they can use... TECHNOLOGY! (it's the barcodes that go across the page in the bottom left hand corner - the natural curvature of the paper so close to the fold pisses off our very picky scanner), or the slightly chubby girl on the bus with the terrible haircut who will save the world someday, or the secret lives of graffiti characters.
I'm barely aware that it's even happening, it happens so much. And my dreams are pretty vivid and often have semi-coherent plot lines as well. Plus, with a packratty life of chaos, turning over a piece of paper can start a story. For instance, today I ripped a couple of Negativland CDs, the music from season one of Sifl & Olly, and a collection of Alan Moore's spoken word pieces. Can you imagine a computer gaining sentience from that sort of thing? I can.
So what's your story?