I think all writers get asked “where do you get your ideas?”
The correct answer, of course, is I make shit up, in my head. But the clarity that brings an idea forward into a plot and a story or novel is the end of a process that’s a bit more convoluted in nature.
For me, it starts with the drift.
And that starts as soon as I’ve finished a piece, or even sometimes during. My mind goes blank, almost empty, and I fill it with random stuff; snatches of music, images from films, bits and pieces from books, song lyrics and poetry and general nonsense from my memories ( there’s a lot of that.)
Sometimes this drift lasts for weeks, sometimes it’s only a matter of minutes. If I’m receptive, an image comes to me, like a still from a movie, or a photograph, one that is usually either the start, or the end of a story. And once that image starts to move and the soundtrack kicks in, that’s when I know I’ve got something I can work with.
Occasionally though, I get too many of these static images at once. Writing them down in a notebook helps, as I can then go back later, read the notes, and see if it still grabs me. Often, I’ve lost interest by that time though. If they then come back again later, I’ll take a closer look at them, but if nothing says ‘write me’ in big letters, I go back to the drift.
I’m in the drift today.
The first thing that came to me was two words. “Mission Improbable”, and an image, of Ethan Hunt ( not the Tom Cruise version) facing off against a squad of Lovecraftian entities in the London Underground system. I dropped that one as being too much like Delta Green.
Next up was an idea I thought I’d partially nicked from Moorcock, of giant steampunk cities in towering spires ( like Londra in the Hawkmoon books), pirates on Zeppelins and a fusion of steampunk and magic. While looking around to make notes I discovered Jim Butcher had done / will do most of it already in his Cinder Spires series.
So it’s back to the drift again, waiting for the stars to be right.
Drifting and drifting, like a ship upon the sea.