Thursday, June 7, 2007


I've never been short on ideas. They come to me from everywhere, from anything. A couple of things will come together and bam! I have the makings of a story or a novel.

People will ask writers where they get their ideas. Some answer creatively - "From the store down the street. $14.99, this weekend only!" or "From the outstretched fingers of my dying victims." The former gets you a chuckle. The latter lands you in therapy.

The truth is, ideas come from the world around us. For example, a few weeks ago my wife was watching one of those weight-loss reality shows. It reminded us of a celebrity reality weight loss show we saw together where Liv Tyler's sister was being blasted by a panel of judges for not losing any weight. Liv's sister said she was happy with the way she looked. One judge asked her why she even bothered to live.

Typical reality TV drama moment. But it got me thinking, what if...

What if, in the future, women are forced by law to be a certain weight, with no exceptions? What if the women who won't or can't make that weight are hunted down like dogs? Maybe there's even a reality show where women are forced to slim down or die...

Great idea, full of potential. Relevant, too. It could be a dark comedy about out obsession with appearances, or a serious story about the continued oppression of women.

And that's just one story idea. And they don't all come from TV, I assure you. I had another idea while working my last job, when I was stuck with an obsessive micromanaging supervisor who was constantly worried about 'the perception'. "Don't have a newspaper on your desk. The perception could be that you have nothing better to do with your time but read newspapers." "Always face your desk, even when talking to someone behind you. If you turn around, the perception could be that our group sits around talking all day." He's so afraid of perceptions, I thought. What if there were these creatures called The Perceptors, who roam office hallways looking at and seeing everything that goes on? Are they supernatural entities, or agents of the company? And how do their reports affect the employees? You could be at your desk at work right now reading my blog, with a Perceptor hovering over your shoulder, Seeing you...

Another fun idea. And a great way to get something positive out of a negative situation.

Do you see how it works? I get ideas from the world the world around me. If you want ideas, get out into the world and ask that all-important question - what if? Then use your imagination. Want that in math? How about:

Ideas = what if(world+imagination).

Try it out. Let me know what happens.


Justine said...

Tim This post really amazed me, and made me laugh a lot! :-D What I find amazing is the fact that after having the idea, you are actually able to put it down and "buid" a story around it. I have ideas sometimes (like everybody I guess) but I would never be able to make a novel out of it. This is the super power of a writer! :-D

Besides, I loved the idea of the weight loss constriction, I would die first! ;-)

Wendy said...

And here I thought ideas came from a post office box in Schenectady!!

Bella Rossa said...

I always love this question, too. "Where do your ideas come from?" How to choose which ones to really do something with is a better question.

It's more about developing a more effective filter to recognize the shiniest nuggets that are rattling around in my brain all day long.

I have to say, though, growing up being heavily exposed to science fiction has helped nurture my imagination in ways I appreciate every time I sit down to write comedy. With sci-fi, every little detail about everyday life is a potential spinoff into something weird and unexpected and awesome. Same thing with comedy.