Friday, February 3, 2012

The Origin of Ideas

I’ve noticed a trend lately with the production of new movies.  The trend seems to be that the ideas behind movies aren’t necessarily “new” anymore.  There are a few exceptions, of course, but it appears to me that movie producers are out of ideas.  Movies are either produced in order to gain the most shock value, have the silliest plot imaginable or they are a remake of an older movie, quite possibly one that has been reproduced more than a few times.

That’s why I adore books over movies.  Although there are a few book ideas that tend to be piggybacked by others who also wish to publish during the frenzy of what has caught on, there are thousands of books out there with a new idea or at least a spin on an old idea, rather than a remake of the same idea.
So where do ideas come from? 

They come from real life, for one.  It depends on the person, of course, but we all lead very busy lives and are subject to a multitude of characters, scenes and dilemmas we can study and learn from every day.  Some characters, scenes and dilemmas are more interesting than others but the question of how interesting they may be to someone else is subjective.  Many authors use real people they know as inspiration, real legal cases to write true crime or they may use headlines as a way to come up with a good idea for a book.
Ideas can also emerge straight from the imagination where a limitless amount of creativity can be found.   Masters of creativity, in my opinion, include J. R. R. Tolkein, Stephen King and J. K. Rowling.  Authors such as these add strength to the following quotes by Cynthia Ozick:

“The imagination has resources and intimation we don’t even know about.”
“To imagine the unimaginable is the highest use of the imagination.”

Ideas can even come from dreams.  The trick is remembering the details of the dream when you finally wake up.  I myself have a notebook and pencil on my nightstand and have made use of it a number of times after waking from a dream.  I discovered the importance of using a pencil after pens failed me while I attempted to quickly jot down a few notes before the dream was completely lost from my memory.   
Ideas for characters are also either based on real life or imagination.  Some characters are much more likeable than others and I find when I discover an author who can continue to create likable characters or characters I love to hate, I am much more inclined to continue reading their books.

What types of characters interest you?
Do you like reading about real people…families, farmers, secretaries, entrepreneurs, blue or white collar workers…who face a life-changing dilemma?

Or do you enjoy reading about characters you would not ever actually meet in your lifetime…a spy, a young wizard, a dragon slayer or a vampire? 
The types of characters you enjoy reading about will correspond to the types of scenes and dilemmas you prefer reading about…real life drama, extreme suspense or imaginary lands.  You may enjoy a book familiar to your current life or you might enjoy a book completely different from what you know as a way to escape monotony. 

In my opinion, any book written well with a good plot and likeable characters is a great escape.
So where do my ideas come from?

Sometimes, as I said, a dream might give me an idea, but for the most part they come to me out of the blue.  Whether I’m driving to an appointment, folding laundry or taking a walk, I will suddenly be struck with a “what if” scenario.  Since I have worked as a private investigator in criminal defense cases for over a decade, you can bet a number of my ideas relate to some sort of crime and the investigation surrounding that crime. 
Do my ideas relate to cases I have worked? 

Not specifically, no, although there are a few cases I’ve worked in the past I would not mind putting down on paper with the permission of those involved.  My ideas relate in general to crimes I have investigated but not to the people I have dealt with.  However, I have met with and interviewed thousands of defendants, victims and witnesses over the course of my career and there may be some characteristics of people I’ve met that I have used or will use in character portrayals.  Beyond that, there are a few individuals I might like to base some future characters on but will do so only if they are in agreement. 
In spite of my legal background, I am not a one trick pony. 

Some of my ideas have nothing whatsoever to do with crime or investigations.  Writing about crimes and investigations is familiar to me while the other book ideas will be somewhat foreign.  I don’t mind because it will allow me to conduct a lot of research, which is something I enjoy, or it will allow my imagination to take a front seat as I write. 
Either way, it’s a challenge I look forward to. 

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