I wrote last week on the Penkhull Press site about questions asked by audiences at literary events. There are always those few that come up time and again and one old chestnut I did not mention was “where do the ideas come from”.
I frequently hear writers saying that ideas just come from nowhere; are prompted by news articles; snippets over heard on a bus; research of subjects for themes anthologies – the list goes on. I suspect that many, like myself, draw inspiration from all of the above.
When those ideas come I, like the many, make notes; scribbling down the random ideas, even whole paragraphs, which come unbidden, and then setting them aside for future reference – because you never know when you might want a random idea for a particular market. Having a “here’s one I started earlier” prompt can set things rolling nicely.
Such was my intention today. The novel writing requires a small hiatus so I looked to my ‘ideas’ files.
And here is where my careful stowage of inspirational gems comes unstuck. ‘Jotting down’ ideas as they come only works of you know what the idea was in the first place. Opening a file labelled ‘Captain Christmas’ – yes, I know, it’s only June, but I saw a submissions opening for seasonal fiction just this week – but as always I digress. I found the following:
The study hardly brimming with Christmas cheer. A fir swag over the fireplace and a straggle of ivy dripping from the library-ladder were the sum total of effort. It was a masculine space that frowned on the excesses of Christmas decor. Leather-topped desk, large model of a merchant steamship, encased in glass, ‘rolling bravely on a plaster and paint sea’. Dark oil portrait of a sea captain in full Merchantman’s uniform. A Naval barometer hung on the wall closest to the door, handy for the tapping thereof; which he did, though Ernest had no idea what the readings indicated. He was not at home on the brine and ignorant of weather forecasting beyond a childhood observation of pine cones and seaweed.
Rough, little more than notes, and absolutely no idea what I had in mind when I wrote it, absolutely no idea where it should be going! I’m fairly sure I can make a story from it but it is sooooooo frustrating not knowing what gem I had in mind at the time.
Note to self – make more notes.