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Where do good ideas come from?

            For me, an idea typically just pops into my head. Poof. There it is. It can happen anywhere at any time. Sometimes, it’s something I see. A painting or a view outside a car-window where I think, what if mankind were wiped out and the few survivors were walking down this highway. Or what if I suddenly realized the same thing was happening to me over and over.

            To be honest, for me, more ideas end up unfinished than finished. I get excited when they materialize. I’m chomping at the bit to start typing them. But as the words spill forth and the page-count grows, I begin to lose interest. The idea starts to sound stupid, or it sounds too much like something else. The words become stiff and pretty soon, I’m barely writing on it, often skipping weeks between writing until finally, I abandon it and move to the next thing.

            But on occasion, an idea survives. The fire keeps burning. The story keeps unfolding.

            NOVEL X is like that. The idea came to me differently than any other I’ve had. I couldn’t sleep one night (I believe it was mid-October), so I got up at like 2 AM, plopped down on the couch and clicked on the TV. Some movie I’d never heard of was on, so I watched it, hoping to get sleepy and go back to bed.

            That’s when it happened. I fell in love with a character in that movie. Her story was so real to me, her aliveness so palpable, and the actress made me believe that this character really existed. When the movie ended, I literally missed her. Now how weird is that? She consumed me for days (or maybe haunted me is a better way of saying it). Finally, while out for my daily walk, it hit me – I needed to continue her story. I determined right there on that old black-top road in the middle of nowhere that I was going to write her story; a continuing saga.

            I knew it would not be easy. I’d never written a story like this. My writing is typically dark with some fantastical element embedded deep in the plot. Writing a drama based on real-world events… that would be interesting to say the least.

            I started writing it that day! I couldn’t type the words fast enough. A flurry of nouns, verbs, adjectives all splashing across the page and before I knew it, within a week, I was fifty pages into this thing.

            But something else started to happen; a scary and spectacular occurrence. Control over the story’s direction slipped away and, on many days, all I could do is watch the words appear on the screen. My intent had been to write the continuing story of a character I’d watched on television, but the more it progressed, the further it strayed from that concept. And then it hit me.

My character was evolving.

She was becoming someone different than the girl I watched in that movie. She spoke differently, she liked different things, she wrestled with different demons. She did not want to be the person I’d envisioned her as. She was stronger than that. More viable. More real.

            She became Emma.

            The idea of her swelled and Emma grew more and more alive. At times I’d see her sitting along the edge of that black-top road as I walked, watching me like she thought I might abandon her. Sometimes, she’d walk next to me and just tell her story (she loves to use her hands when she talks).

            The story of Emma.


            I can’t tell you the movie I saw, that would kill the idea. Nor can I tell you what the story is about, because that would also kill the idea. I can’t even tell you the working title of the book. You see, by keeping these things secret, I’m protecting Emma from my own tendencies and ensuring her story gets told.

            As I’d mentioned in my original post, if I tell anyone about a story I’m writing before it’s completed, it dies.

            So for now, Emma’s story is just Novel X and Novel X is rolling along. The same struggles pop up that I’ve had writing any book, and I’ll share some of those, but for now, just know her story is blossoming. I can’t wait until you can read it! I can’t wait for you to meet her.

I think you’re going to like Emma.


If you happen to feel like sharing your thoughts on the birth of ideas, I’d love to hear it. It’s such a mysterious topic and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, every good idea has a story behind it.