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SEEING THE THUNDER 

WHERE DO OUR IDEAS COME FROM?

If you’re an author you know one of the most common questions asked is where do your ideas come from?

How do you answer?  Where do your ideas originate?

Creativity is as mysterious and incomprehensible as Dark Matter.  In fact, brilliant minds like Einstein and Goedel have contemplated the connections between intuition, intelligence and insight in connection to mathematics.  This multi-sensory ability is even mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Exodus as “Seeing the Thunder.”

With this interesting topic in mind, I asked two lovely ladies and NYT Bestselling authors where their ideas come from…

–JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

“The ideas simply come. I think it’s the nature of the way a writer’s brain works.  Getting the ideas down on paper is the only way to get them out of my head.  The problem is not coming up with ideas; the problem is choosing the best ones.”

The following is in response to my question about using amber in the Harmony series (which I LOVE)… under the pseudonym Jayne Castle…

“The amber thing was a stray factoid stuck in my memory banks from some long ago science class.  As you mentioned, I was looking for a substance that had value and power but in this case I also wanted it to tie into the psychic elements of my Harmony series. I had a vague recollection that amber had certain electrical properties (it will hold a charge for a short time) and that it also has a long association with metaphysics.  I verified those stray facts and then ran with them, if the amber thing hadn’t worked well, I would have used a crystal of some kind because crystals are associated with physics and computers and also with metaphysics.  Either way, I just wanted a substance that had both scientific and metaphysical associations.”

–JENNIFER CRUISIE

“Lina, I don’t know where I get my ideas.  They just show up.  I do know that the idea for my latest solo novel was something I thought of back in 1985 when I was working on my MA, the idea that somebody should do a feminist version of The Turn of the Screw and rescue that governess. Twenty-five years later, I wrote Maybe This Time, which pays homage to The Turn of the Screw, but is about something else entirely; it changed as I thought about it all those years and then it changed again as I was writing it.   Sometimes different ideas start to stick together–the idea of a heroine who’s a medium and a hero who’s a magician, that appeals to me right now–and sometimes I get the itch to try something new–like a short mystery series–but none of the ideas really get traction until the heroine starts talking in my head, not just as an idea but as a living, breathing character.  I had a great idea, about a con man and a woman who had two personalities (deliberately, she wasn’t nuts) but I couldn’t get that one to work, either, because she wouldn’t talk to me and her younger sister kept hogging the space in my head.  Finally I thought, “Well, maybe it’s the sister’s story since she won’t shut up,” and then everything started moving. “

“That was Faking It.  I had another great idea about a traditional heroine in an untraditional world, a woman who liked to cook and clean and sew, a born homemaker, but I could never get her to come alive, no matter what I did.  Charlotte.  Charlotte was a good woman, but she never showed up.  I finally had to give up on her completely because she wouldn’t talk to me. But my last two heroines have baked like crazy, so maybe that’s where she went.  The good news about ideas is that there’s a million of them, so it’s more a matter of which one takes root in your brain and insists to be written than it is of thinking one up.  Mine always take root about half way through the current book I’m working on.   Then I can do a lot of the discovery stuff while I’m rewriting the current book, things like finding songs for the soundtrack in my head and making the collage.  I get a lot of my ideas from the collage; that’s where the story idea changes into a story most of the time.  But where the original idea comes from?  Most of the time, it just shows up and says, “Hi,” and there we are.”

For those of us who are lucky enough to see the thunder — maybe —the source of our ideas, just like creativity, should remain a mystery.

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