Today, I’d like to talk a little about the story bomb. But before I do, go over to John Wiswell’s blog and read Making Ideas. Writers get asked about imagination a lot, he begins. Where do you get your ideas? It’s a really insightful post about the beginnings of the writing process.
Me, I ’m not that insightful — or at best, most of my insights don’t lend themselves well to description. I’m mostly a pantser (i.e. I write by the seat of my pants) and that really starts with the ideas. These Writing Wibbles can be difficult to write simply because I often don’t put that much thought into the process of writing; I’m too busy doing it. In the best of times, the characters are telling the story and I’m just taking dictation.
John makes an excellent point: you have to immerse yourself in good stories, in good writing, to train yourself to recognize it (and, we hope, create your own). I read a lot from the time I could read (before my fourth birthday… I cannot remember ever not being able to read) up to the time I plunged so deeply into the world of FAR Future that I was spending all my free time writing.
So where do I get my ideas? They just come. I’ve mentioned before, I believe creativity to be a reflection of the Divine, the image in which we were created. Sometimes, the idea comes in a snippet of a dream (in which I tell someone, “Dammit, you fool, I’m her father!” although she was made rather than born). Or there was the time I was driving to work and was surrounded by white pickup trucks for a half-minute. Writing prompts usually work best for me when I ask a question — what happened up to this point? — and if I ask the right question, the answer often comes in a story bomb and I’m off to the races. White Pickups was originally a flash piece, about 700 words, ending with Tina in the Saver-Mart parking lot. When I asked myself “so what happened next?” I got a 200 kiloword thermonuclear story bomb. Well, no — I didn’t get one Big One, it was more like a carpet story bombing that has kept me busy for nearly two years now. Accidental Sorcerers (and some partly-written follow-ons) came from a photo and an off-hand comment by the photographer.
What about you? Do you get ideas as a story bomb? Or do they just trickle in? Or do you just lasso an idea and drag it into the corral?