Strange Ideas


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Thread: Strange Ideas

  1. #1

    Strange Ideas

    Ideas are by and large easy to come up with, or should be, but good ideas (the kind that hold a gun to your head and scream 'write me') are not.

    I was wondering, what (nontraditional) sources have you found to be surprisingly rich for getting ideas for new projects? Can be as specific or personal or random as you like.

    My last story was inspired quite heavily by a website I occasionally lurk where people post anonymous confessions. This one was a real shocker, and immediately I felt the urge to steal it. I recommend surfing those places for prompts. I also have got a surprising number of story ideas from browsing online classifieds like Craigslist.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  2. #2
    Wɾˇʇˇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    To be honest, I struggle quite a lot with ideas. Characters I can do. Settings, narrative description, voice, crafting sentences, dialogue, set-pieces - all feasible to some degree. Even themes seem to come fairly naturally for me. But when it comes time to find them all something to do, oh boy. The problem is that I actually don't care as much about ideas in and of themselves, so not only are they not a huge part of my ambient mental weather anyway, but if I put too much focus on them, I end up not caring that much about the project. Basically, a story idea, for me goes like this: "Ooh, here's a curious thing/place/word/person/name/expression/imagined scene. Let's spend some time with it. What's happened around it? Hmm, better give these people something to aim at otherwise they'll just be standing around. Oh, look - there's a weird-looking castle. Make them have to get to the weird-looking castle. Oh, look, there's an egg-shaped man. Have the egg-shaped man try and stop them." Then I try and populate it with all the other window-dressing I thought of earlier. Straight up elevator-pitch ready million-dollar ideas with a super twist or whole new take on things are like gold dust, to me.

    Aside: In typing "gold dust", I googled it to confirm it meant what I thought it did, and put "god dust" in the search field by mistake. God Dust - that's one such little idea nugget there. Don't know what it is; want to find out. I'll put it in my file. It may even surface as an LM prompt suggestion later, though it is a little Pullman-esque.

    Good Q


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  3. #3
    The anonymous confessions sound great!!

    Ugh, I've been taken some stranges places: I-dosing (Bi-neutral beat therapy), bomb-making, the dark web and computer hacking, incel groups... Strange enough, my sources are mostly my kids. But then again, one's heavily into chemistry and psychology, the other computer science. I've had some pretty strange conversation with my kids around the dinner table, to be honest.
    "You don't wanna ride the bus like this,"

    Mike Posner.



  4. #4
    Black Metal. Some Death Metal too. A lot people behind these bands are trying to create music that will destroy the universe, no joke. So you get songs that are essentially bizarre rituals for conjuring up evil...it's all very occult, and it sounds funny right up until you realize it's all real. That kind of stuff I find inspiring, because it cuts right to heart of what evil is. Or as close as a human can, anyways. Obscure imageboards have been an inspiration too, back in the day anyways. You can see people destroy their lives right in front of you, degrading themselves like they are an animal. Sometimes it seems borderline demonic.
    Dead by Dawn!

  5. #5
    A really boring job. My mind is away and goodness knows what will happen next.

  6. #6
    I don't listen to the radio when I drive. I do lots of trips of 4 or more hours, and have found this to be a great time to just think. I people watch, I look at how they dress, stand and talk. I figure everyone has a story to tell. I remember a very long conversation with a man at the local gas station. Standing inline waiting to pay, I noticed that this guy shined his shoes, not something you see very often. While dressed well, his clothes while high quality, where older.

    Being rather blunt I just asked him what he did for a living, mentioning the shoes being shined and how that is so rare now a days. I also mentioned that he was dressed well and that it was obvious he was meticulous. It turns out he was an attorney, and a professor at the local college. We talked for almost half an hour in the middle of the store. When he asked about me, and my observation skills, I just shared that I liked to write, it turns out he also liked to write. We traded business cards and emailed each other for awhile, getting to know each other over the course of the year.

    I have used the description of one of my characters in one of my stories as a guy who shined his shoes. I never said anything more about him, no height, color of hair or anything else. I figured it was the best way to let the reader fill in the blanks yet get a vivid idea of who he was.
    God hates a coward Revelation 21:8

    “Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.”

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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    To be honest, I struggle quite a lot with ideas. Characters I can do. Settings, narrative description, voice, crafting sentences, dialogue, set-pieces - all feasible to some degree. Even themes seem to come fairly naturally for me. But when it comes time to find them all something to do, oh boy. The problem is that I actually don't care as much about ideas in and of themselves, so not only are they not a huge part of my ambient mental weather anyway, but if I put too much focus on them, I end up not caring that much about the project. Basically, a story idea, for me goes like this: "Ooh, here's a curious thing/place/word/person/name/expression/imagined scene. Let's spend some time with it. What's happened around it? Hmm, better give these people something to aim at otherwise they'll just be standing around. Oh, look - there's a weird-looking castle. Make them have to get to the weird-looking castle. Oh, look, there's an egg-shaped man. Have the egg-shaped man try and stop them." Then I try and populate it with all the other window-dressing I thought of earlier. Straight up elevator-pitch ready million-dollar ideas with a super twist or whole new take on things are like gold dust, to me.
    It's funny you mention that, bd, because I was reading one of your LM pieces recently and recall my instant reaction being something like 'this is bloody fantastic characterization, some of the best I've seen on WF, with a great potential for voice, excellent setting and vibe...shame they don't do much' although I figured that was mostly down to the word count restriction. I have a similar problem myself. I find actually getting my characters off the couch to be the hardest part about writing by FAR, which is why I often end up looting the internet, etc. for ideas as to what can be done other than just kill everybody. Usually ends up being a matter of 'What if we try this..." and see what sticks.


    Quote Originally Posted by Aquilo View Post
    Ugh, I've been taken some stranges places: I-dosing (Bi-neutral beat therapy), bomb-making, the dark web and computer hacking, incel groups... Strange enough, my sources are mostly my kids. But then again, one's heavily into chemistry and psychology, the other computer science. I've had some pretty strange conversation with my kids around the dinner table, to be honest.
    Bomb-making and the dark-web? Jesus, be careful with that web history...

    I went on an incel board once out of morbid curiosity. Actually I think it was just a general women-hating board. Rough.


    Quote Originally Posted by BornForBurning View Post
    Black Metal. Some Death Metal too. A lot people behind these bands are trying to create music that will destroy the universe, no joke. So you get songs that are essentially bizarre rituals for conjuring up evil...it's all very occult, and it sounds funny right up until you realize it's all real. That kind of stuff I find inspiring, because it cuts right to heart of what evil is. Or as close as a human can, anyways. Obscure imageboards have been an inspiration too, back in the day anyways. You can see people destroy their lives right in front of you, degrading themselves like they are an animal. Sometimes it seems borderline demonic.

    Interesting. Out of interest how do you get story ideas from listening to music? I didn't think a lot of extreme metal music had lyrics?
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  8. #8
    Out of interest how do you get story ideas from listening to music? I didn't think a lot of extreme metal music had lyrics?
    Most extreme metal bands actually do have lyrics, but the 'singing' if you want to call it that is mostly for atmosphere. They are meant to be heard, but not in the way you hear lyrics when listening to a pop song. It's more like you catch a lyric here and there, like listening to a sorcerer summoning a demon in a swirling vortex. Grafvitnir is a band I've been listening to recently that encapsulates this kind of sound pretty nicely. The main way I get ideas from listening to music is just the raw feeling it gives me, or the picture I get in my head when I listen to it. Like the song Bergtrollets Hevn by Gorgoroth. The song has nothing to do with a blonde, blue-eyed girl descending from the mountains to destroy civilization, but that's what came to my mind when I listened to that song. Then I take these weird, sort of mythological images I get in my head and I try and turn them into a story. I just love the feeling of morbid mystery, I guess. That sense of 'good' journeying through this dark, mysterious, corrupt world, cause that's the world I live in, I feel.
    Dead by Dawn!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by bazz cargo View Post
    A really boring job. My mind is away and goodness knows what will happen next.
    Yes, I daydream when I'm bored, too. Never a shortage of ideas!

    Quote Originally Posted by Plasticweld View Post
    I don't listen to the radio when I drive. I do lots of trips of 4 or more hours, and have found this to be a great time to just think. I people watch, I look at how they dress, stand and talk. I figure everyone has a story to tell.
    I used to do a lot of street evangelism which taught me to be more observant of people and to think about their stories. So far it hasn't directly inspired any ideas but it has influenced the way I think about characters.

    Other people's works--books, movies, plays, etc.--can be a source of good ideas, probably because my brain can't stay on one thread. I remember I was watching "Little Women" and I thought, "What if there was a pilot in this same time period fighting in the war, but he was kind of loopy and believed that his airplane was a reincarnation of his girlfriend, but, hey, what if he wasn't in this time period at all because it'd be cool if his plane was a B-2. . ." and suddenly I have a completely new idea, unrelated from the original thing I was watching/reading.

    I get ideas from dreams, too. A lot of mine have vivid characters, settings, moods, and plots. There's also a backlog of ideas in my brain from all the "pretend" games I've played (right up to the present day, in fact. If you play with your younger siblings no one thinks you're weird. Heh heh).
    "So long is the way to the unknown, long is the way we have come. . ." ~ Turisas, Five Hundred and One

    "[An artist is] an idiot babbling through town. . .crying, 'Dreams, dreams for sale! Two for a kopek, two for a song; if you won't buy them, just take them for free!'" ~ Michael O' Brien,
    Sophia House

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    trampling on Death by death,
    And on those in the tombs,
    lavishing light.



  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Plasticweld View Post
    Standing inline waiting to pay, I noticed that this guy shined his shoes, not something you see very often.
    I think that's the key aspect of much of my inspiration, small details in life that make me search my imagination for explanations. They don't always give rise to good stories though. On Friday as my angel and I were walking across the supermarket car park towards the shop we saw a trolley boy pushing a line of trolleys away from it. I wondered why. Surely their job is to push them back to the shop. What was he doing? It wasn't that they were alien trolleys being returned to the other supermarket across the way. What then was the story behind his action? Little came to mind on that occasion though.

    I find the supermarket is a good place to get story ideas and unlike the other goods on display they are free. Pushing the trolley behind my angel I have little to do but muse as we navigate the aisles. Watching the other shoppers and reading labels on the merchandise as I pass by fuels my mind. The least thing can seed an idea. Once it was the way that the light hit the top of a can in the trolley, making a small dent in it appear to be bulging outwards rather than inwards. Evidently something had hit it from inside the can. What had tried to get out? In a flash I had the answer, a solitary American Navy bean wrongly imprisoned with all the Italian spaghetti. (American Navy beans are the normal variety used in cans of baked beans.) Already I could hear his tiny (Maybe that should be "tinny".) voice desperately shouting for someone to contact the American embassy. Just then the angle of the light changed as I moved along the aisle and the dent appeared to bulge boringly inwards and he was gone. Once I wrote a small item on WF inspired solely by an advertisement that I'd seen on the back of a bus while driving to the supermarket. Whatever I'm doing, apparently somewhere at the back of my mind there's a writer twiddling his thumbs waiting for something to work on.

    Recently my duties during the supermarket round changed though, as our local shop now has a smart shopping facility which allows one to check out items and put them straight into one's own bags as they are picked up. The checkout process can be done using a smartphone or a hand barcode scanner taken from a rack at the shop entrance. The system works on trust to some extent as on leaving the shop one simply pays for the goods listed by the software, but there are security measures to minimise shoplifting. In fact as I walked behind my angel for the first time with my laser gun zapping the goods that she put in the bags I wondered whether it had a stun setting for detaining shoplifters. At any moment the device, continuously linked by WiFi to the shop's central system, might deflect its beam to drop an adjacent offending shopper to the ground with a high power burst of energy. Maybe that's phase three of the project though. The first was the smartphone app and the second was introduction of the shop's own laser guns, so what next?

    Of course I have to mention my strangest source of ideas, my future experiences. It isn't that these are a good source of ideas but that they demand to be written into my work simply so that there is proof that they were in my mind at that time. If I ignored them then there wouldn't be so much evidence that my mind, and no doubt other people's as well, is capable of retrieving information from the future, which is for me at least the best story ever if it is true. They are if anything a nuisance as often they don't fit into my work and I have to contrive a way to make them, but they are irresistible. Also the incongruity of their presence often provides the extra twist to my writing that characterises it. For example, when I felt obliged to mention a belligerent warthog in the novel that I wrote in 2011 I couldn't imagine how to work it into the story but eventually the mystery surrounding it became a running motif and it reappeared several times across the story line of the planned trilogy of novels, the mystery finally being solved on the last page of the last novel, thus tying up another separate loose end in the story. The incident in my life that gave rise to the warthog occurred some two years after I wrote my novel and it was undeniably the inspiration for it. Even its incongruity within the story made sense as the inspiration itself was a misprint in something written on the wall of a building that was itself reminiscent of the setting for my novel. Yes, I literally saw the writing on the wall and realised that it was wrong, so wrong that I had puzzled over it two years before I found it.

    It isn't just good ideas for stories that hold a gun to your head and scream 'write me'. Writing can also be just a means to another end.

    P.S.
    HERE's a good example of my fiction paralleling my real experiences.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

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