Idea Farming

I’ve just discovered the Writing Excuses podcast, and I can’t believe it took me so long. Brandon Sanderson, one of the four authors who hosts the podcast, is one of my favorite writers, and I’m always looking for new writing resources.

I’m in extra luck, because this year the podcasts are being structured as a sort of master class. I’m going to play along here, because it’s just more fun that way.

Episode 10.1 covered ideas – the homework assignment was as follows:

Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:

  1. From an interview or conversation you’ve had
  2. From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc)
  3. From observation (go for a walk!)
  4. From a piece of media (watch a movie)
  5. From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)

I’m not sure if it’s cheating to use ideas I’ve kind of had in the back of mind that were inspired this way, but just in case, I’ll go with five completely new ideas.

  1. Conversation – At work, we joked around about having a fake kid to leave work early without the headache of parenthood. I wonder who would have a fake kid, or, more interestingly, who would have a real kid that somehow seemed fake. Idea: A child born on Leap Day who only exists once every four years for 24 hours but ages normally between those times.
  2. Research – I’ve done a lot of reading about people climbing Everest – always been struck by the image of passing the dead body of someone who tried to do the very thing you’re trying to do as you try to do it. I also like the idea of trying to/being able to create pocket universes. Idea: A universe maker who is like a watch maker, trying to create the perfect universe and sacrificing more and more with each failure.
  3. Observation – I rode the train with a dollar bill the other day. It was in the seat next to me and though many people saw it, nobody took it (including me), I assume because they felt someone else needed it more. I thought it was a great testimony to human kindness and positive peer pressure, at least at fairly low stakes. Idea: Someone searches New York City for a lost talisman that collects and transmits the hopes and fears of those who pass it by.
  4. Piece of Media – I skimmed through part of She’s All That, complete with the ridiculous idea that taking off your glasses turns you from ugly to super hot. Idea: Someone dealing with the ability to be beautiful to everyone but at the cost of never truly being seen.
  5. Piece of Music – There’s a line from a Tracy Chapman song, “She’s got her ticket/I think she’s gonna use it/Think she’s gonna fly away” Idea: Building your own fairy wings for a noble purpose, but through some nefarious/evil means.

Funny how much you can think of in a single quick session. Liking this so far.

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