Origin of ideas

 
Imaginary friend (IF): Where do you get ideas from?

 
Me (ME): Ideas can come from anywhere, and at any time.
Sometimes I see an interesting word or phrase and use it as a title for a story. The story then grows from the title. Even a simple title is full of possibilities.

Sometimes I think of a cool line of dialogue, then write the responding dialogue and soon it’s part of a conversation. What led to that conversation, and what happens after it?

I might also hear or see an interesting, intriguing or mysterious sentence. Or even an idiom. Once I was walking through a shopping centre, and while passing a restaurant I overheard one man saying to another, “I’ve never met your wife.” Why did he just say that? What’s the rest of the conversation about? I found it interesting. That sentence was the seed for a short comic about a hitman who utters it then kills a man in a restaurant. If I were to return to that character he would only kill married men. What’s his beef with married men? That’s another possible story.

Sometimes I imagine a scene and build a story around it. Or I might see something happening and turn it into a story. For example, you might see a kid running across the street chasing a tennis ball. Who or what threw that ball? What if it’s a creature’s egg? What’s going to happen if she doesn’t stop it before it reaches the other side of the street?
You might see someone climb a ladder to wash a window. What will that person see when they reach the top and look in through the window? A pair of unlikely lovers? A teenager talking to a ghost? There might be anything on the other side of that window.

Looking at the things I mentioned (above), it seems some of my stories are about answering interesting questions. At least, questions I find interesting. Some people might find it vomit-inducingly boring.

At times I think of an interesting character, usually there’s something different about them. Could be their looks, job, a habit or a disease. That character then forms the beginning of a story. Once I wondered what it’s like to have no sense of touch. Then did some research and wrote a short comic about a woman who can’t feel anything. She joined a super hero team because she can’t feel pain.

Dreams can also be inspirations for ideas. When I wake from an unusual or interesting dream, I usually write it on my phone. I had two related dreams a few days (or maybe a week or two) apart. In one dream I was walking through a city infested with worms, which were alien or supernatural. I watched in horror as the worms infected people and ate them from the inside out. Their bodies were riddled with holes and limbs were falling off. In the second dream I woke in bed to find my back infected with worms. I sat up, in the dream, pulling the worms out of my back. Those two dreams led to the opening scene for a comic book, in which a dinner party goes pear-shaped. The people were eating alien worms, but the worms came back to life inside the people and started eating them.

A few times I get ideas before falling asleep at night, or after waking up in the morning. I might wake at 3 AM and think of ideas while I wait for my brain to decide to fall asleep. So I keep my phone next to my bed and write down ideas on it. The phone’s useful because I can write any time, for example, while waiting for a bus.

I know some people write to explore moral or philosophical themes. Philip K. Dick was intrigued with the questions, “What is reality?” and “What is the authentic human?” Those were recurring themes in his writing.
A few times I’ve explored moral or philosophical themes. Many years ago I was obsessed with how society, collectively, is doing nothing to help starving kids (i.e. there should be no kids starving anywhere in the world). I asked questions like, “Isn’t that one of the most important problems we need to solve? Are starving children our collective sin?” And eventually I wondered if everyone is going to hell if that is true. It occupied my brain for days on end. I started writing a short, film script to explore those thoughts. That script evolved over many years until I completed it two years ago. The remains of the original thoughts were still there in the script, but far less prominent than when I started out. They became subtle and symbolic.

The subconscious can also sneak recurring ideas into your writing (or into other creative endeavours like painting). Recently I noticed a recurring scenario in my writing. There’s a scene where a character is standing in front of a basin or kitchen sink, and sometimes water is running out of the tap. And sometimes there’s a mirror. I thought to myself, “What’s up with that?” I came up with a possible answer, but don’t know if it’s true.
I started shaving when I was a teenager, so spent more time standing in front of a basin and mirror. And often the water was running. This probably led to me becoming more self aware. During that time I often thought about my life and identity. That’s kind of what a mirror will do to you. Staring at yourself and the windows to your soul. Since then it also started happening while I’m brushing my teeth. I would also stare at the running water and self reflect. So maybe my subconscious reasons, “If that’s a time you spend self reflecting, maybe that’s also when everyone else does it. So they’ll understand the character is self reflecting.”

So, as you can see, ideas can come from anywhere and at any time.

 
IF: I do see. So where did I come from? Why did you create me?

 
ME: I felt like writing about where I get ideas from, and since no one asked me to write it, I decided to create you to ask me. Hopefully it makes me seem less mad having someone ask me the question than me just writing about it out of the blue. I also thought a few people might find it useful or interesting.

 
IF: I think you’re lying. I think you wrote it because your ego wanted people to see where you get ideas from.

 
ME: You’re probably right. So I won’t argue about it. Sometimes, not always, you have to submit to what your ego wants. It’s part of the journey to inner peace.

 
IF: Whatever, Mr Fake Philosopher. So I guess I’ll cease to exist when this post ends?

 
ME: I can always call you back when I need you.

 
IF: Then I want a name. I need an identity so you won’t confuse me with the others.

 
ME: OK. What name do you want?

 
IF: Has to be cool. I’m thinking… Rex Maelstrom.

 
ME: Sounds good.

 
Rex Maelstrom (RM): Why did you choose that name for me?

 
ME: I didn’t. You did.

 
RM: Hmm. Goodbye then. Until next time.

 
ME: Cheers.


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