The idea of ideas

I really enjoyed the method of explanation. A story is comparable to a house and yes, the idea, the situations, the confrontations are all basic building blocks of that house.

Font Folly

Certain questions come up again and again at writing panels, on writing forums, and in writing discussion groups. A lot of those questions are about “ideas.” Where does a writer get ideas? How do you know an idea is worth writing? How do you translate your idea into a story? And so on.

I put the word “ideas” in quotes in that first mention because I believe the people who ask these questions have a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of the word. All words have different meanings depending on the context, of course, but I’m talking about something more than that. Because not only do the people who ask these questions misunderstand the word idea, they misunderstand the entire notion of story.

A story is not a collection of unique notions and eccentric characters presented in a series of shocking situations leading to a surprising ending. Some things we…

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3 thoughts on “The idea of ideas

  1. Whenever the idea of ideas comes up, I think of Suzy McKee Charnas’s essay “A Woman Appeared” (1981), about the writing of what became Walk to the End of the World and eventually the four-book Holdfast Chronicles. At the time the ideas Charnas was writing about were barely thinkable, by her or anyone else. Then “a woman appeared” in the story Charnas was writing, a story that had been pretty ho-hum. Charnas followed her — and ideas became thinkable and visible in her wake.

    My novel in progress began with a glimpse of a dog running through the woods. I’m still following him.

    • My last novel came to me when I was in the shower reaching for a bar of Irish Spring soap. An entire universe, planets, characters, motivations and plot ideas just came to me all at once.

      • That’s very cool. With me it’s usually something I glimpse and have to follow, down the rabbit-hole, through the looking-glass, into the woods . . . In the old stories people who do that disappear into Elfland for seven years and when they return no one knows them and everything’s changed. Which, come to think of it, is sort of what happens when I’m working on a novel. Hmm.

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