Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Life in a Writer's Head....Enter At Your Own Risk

One of the questions I think writers are asked most often is "where do you get your ideas?" Good question! Unfortunately, I have no answer. Everyone is different. Some say they get ideas from their dreams, others say they get it from life experience. But I think, generally, because of the way a writer's mind works, ideas come from anywhere, everywhere and nowhere in particular. They hit you when you least expect it. Some come in the form of characters, some in the form of plot. Others from one scene that plays over and over and over in your head until you're forced to pay attention to it or go crazy.

One of my favorite shows is Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel, a show about the Alaska crabbing industry. Fishermen and their crew "compete" during the season for the highest take on crab--my favorites are Sig and the Northwester crew or Phil and the Cornelia Marie crew (so maybe, the other's aren't bad either, but Sig and Phil still pull rank). The term "deadliest" in the title comes from the working conditions: freeze-your-nuts-off cold, waves that will sweep you off the boat and into the Bering Sea, greenhorns that don't know what the hell their doing, large swinging crab pots that can knock you on your ass (and into the sea), and then if that wasn't fun enough, you do all this on about two hours of sleep...if you're lucky. I can't wait for the new season to start on April 15th.

So, finding this fascinating as I do, (okay, Cathy, I see you rolling your eyes up there in podunk Alaska wondering what the hell the thrill is) I read all the recent news reports on the Seattle based fishing boat that recently went down near Dutch Harbor. Turns out a woman owns the company which is impressive because it's more a male dominated industry. But what really turned interesting was that this woman is a recluse. She hasn't been seen out in public for years and does all her business via fax and phone from home. There were even reports from people coming out of the woodwork in hopes of fame and fortune that she was never seen without a hat on her head and a scarf covering her face--even in her own home.

Now, to me, this is a fascinating story. Too bad my last manuscript was fairly similar, but in the video game industry. But for me, this is how I sometimes get my ideas. I read about the in the paper, I see them on the news. Something intrigues me enough that I start rolling it around in my head asking, "what if..." A character develops, maybe a plot. But it's a seed and it gets the ball rolling. Like I said, everyone is different and, even for me, it doesn't always work the same. But the ideas are out there...lots of places...and lots of times it's just art imitating life. All a writer has to do is stop, look around them, listen to what others are talking about and ask themselves, "what if..."

Then comes the hard part....PLOTTING! For that, I'm going to need a mojito or two....or five. Where's the rum??? Why's all the rum gone????

1 comment:

Cathy in AK said...

Hey, we love the Deadliest Catch too. I think those guys are freaking crazy, but you have to be a little off kilter to work in those conditions no matter where you're from. I don't think a fishing season goes by without at least one death or serious injury.

I do the same thing you do as far as getting ideas. I read newspaper and magazine articles and such, mull stories on the news or other shows and add the "what if" factor. Sometimes the ideas are WAAAAY whacked, but every now and again a germ of a decent story takes form.

Hey! Does that mean I can argue all my couch potato tv time as research? Woo hoo! Pass the rum when you fnd it ; )