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How I come up with ideas

How do I come up with Ideas for stories?

I'm a freak. I'll admit it. My mind is constantly humming along and my imagination is crazy vivid and always on. This means some people think I'm either crazy or paranoid or both, but no one can say that I'm boring.

I can look at anything — anything — and within minutes, characters, histories, and stories are spinning around in my head. For example, the little table next to the chair I'm sitting in. I just glanced at it as a test to see if I could really just come up with something. Immediately m, , the idea that it is an antique and once belonged to a nobleman or someone in a secret society and there's a little hidden compartment in it, covered over many years ago with paint or varnish or something that I and the previous three or four owners never saw...throw in a secret that would shake the world to it's core on a piece of parchment in that little secret compartment and my mind starts spinning with assassins lurking in the shadows, archaeologists and conspiracy theorists all in a race to find the little table before the secret falls into the wrong hands (or the CIA)...

See what I mean? Okay, that might have to find its way into a book at some point...

The blessing and the curse...

Anyway, it's what has been called an over-active imagination that I've been blessed/cursed with. Cursed because trust me, I hate flying. I love how fast you can get from place to place, but my imagination takes me to some dark-ass places when I'm in the airport or on the what's like to free-fall for several minutes from 40,000 feet up, knowing that you're about to die and the ground rushes up to give you one final embrace and you're thinking of your loved ones and...yeah. I don't like flying. I used to...before I became a writer and honed my imagination like Duncan MacCloud's sword.

But now? Nope.

I will find any way possible to drive, and I only put on my stoic face when it's absolutely necessary for work and the occasional family trip. I usually need two changes of clothes and a nap after, because I feel like I ran a marathon by the time I land.

Fun fact: Isaac Asimov and John Madden didn't fly. I figure I'm in good company. I will admit it's kinda funny, though, coming from a guy who wanted to be an astronaut and started college as a physics and astronomy major, huh?

I'm a writer. I don't have to be logical. do I come up with ideas?

I look around me. Just like the example above, I get my inspiration from just about...anything. Mostly, I surf the internet every morning and look at the news websites. I actually use an app called Inoreader, and it feeds me articles based on the searches I've saved (anything involving wildfires, asteroids, comets, impacts, volcanoes, etc.). I skim the collected articles, and if anything jumps out at me, I save it. I'll get into workflows in another post.

Once I have the article saved, I move on. I rarely jump right in and start a story based on an article or book I read that same day. I like to let my subconscious percolate the idea a while. That way, when I come back to a few days, or weeks — or months — later, if the idea still draws me in, I know it's a keeper. Then I read the article that inspired me (sometimes it's the other way around...I'll find the article in my Instapaper feed and immediately remember why I put it there in the first place).

The all-powerful "what if"

Usually, as I'm reading an article, a "what if" pops to mind. For instance, if I'm reading an article about cyberwar (a lot of that going around, unfortunately, thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine) and the author mentions the disastrous results of cyber-warfare on civilian targets...(and let's be real here, they have to in order to hook the reader into thinking it could happen to them), I ask "what if?"

"What if?" the Russians hack our power grid? Well, if the article says we'll be without power for two week (hah!) while power companies restore order, and this is why the government suggests we keep supplies on hand (meaning food and water)...I think, well, what happens if it's 2 months or 2 years we're without power? And then I look out the window and start imagining a world where people have no electricity. The logical result is there's no more cars...why? Because without electricity one cannot pump gas at teh gas station (which isn't open, anyway). That means trucks can't deliver food to the grocery stores (diesel needs electric pumps to get it out of the ground storage tanks at gas stations too, you know). If there's no food in supermarkets, after a few days people will riot. We burn down stuff and go nuts over sports teams winning (or losing) big games. If faced with the real possibility of starving to DEATH, yeah, there's gonna be some rioting.

But then...

And that leads me on and on — but then, if there's no food and people are rioting, what happens to people who have no medicine? Well, if someone requires regular doses of medicine and runs out...will they die? Someone on kidney dialysis might. Someone on blood thinners might live for months or a year or something like that before having a heart attack. My point is, a LOT of people in this country rely on medicine to live day to day. If that's cut off (through lack of deliveries to the pharmacies, that aren't open because of no power...or the factories don't have power and can't MAKE any more...) there's going to be a lot a people who die rather quickly, either at home or at hospitals.

Well...that went to a dark place pretty quick. [1]

So yeah...reading or seeing one thing leads to another...

I just take one more step after reading something or seeing something (either live or on TV) and wonder what would happen if...instead of scientists studying how to force the flu to mutate so they can develop a cure, terrorists force it mutate and turn it into an ultra-weapon. The media puts it all otu there, just handing me idea after idea. It's great.

As for my sci-fi stuff (I've got several things in the works) I start with a what if we discovered aliens on the moon? Then apply real world events from history. For instance, with aliens, I look back to the early days of the New World. The Europeans may as well have been from Mars as far as the people of the First Nations were concerned (I've always LOVED the term First Nations vs Native Americans, or the ubiquitous Indian). How did the Europeans react and deal with the First Nations, and visa versa? That is a blueprint for how WE will react to aliens.

At least, it's one possible blueprint.

And then I just want to go and hide...

Sometimes, this imagination of mind won't turn off and the ideas just keep coming. I have notebooks full of ideas and recently migrated most of them to Obsidian (another program I'll cover in a later blog post). I have pages and pages of notes and ideas and when there's a dry spell in in the news, I can always just pick an idea I've had in the past and run with it!

That means I've never experienced writer's block. Which is a win-win! I win, because I never have to struggle with coming up with an idea for a story or book or series. It's a win for you, gentle reader, because you can be assured that if you like my writing, there's no end in sight for the stories and wild plots coming your way!

Till next time, as always, keep your heads down and your powder dry. We live in interesting times!




[1] : want to give yourself the heebie-jeebies? Check this out. It's the official 2008 report to Congress (yeah...this is real) from the EMP Commission and it explains to our head-in-the-sand politicians that if the power grid in this country goes down, 90% of the population — something north of 310,000,000 people (that's more than 310 MILLION people for kids who learned Common Core math) — will die within the first year. Let that sink in a little and compare it to Covid and how people around the world completely lost their minds...what do you think will happen when 9 out of 10 of your neighbors, friends, and relatives are dead and gone within 12 months? Where will all the bodies go? Who will take care of the bodies? Will they just rot in houses or on the streets?

A long term grid-down scenario the ultimate nightmare scenario in my opinion, topped only by an ELE comet impact or nuclear holocaust can top.

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