Thanks to my new best friends @ Speculative Fiction Showcase for allowing me to do a guest blog post! This one is about where all those crazy ideas come from!
SUPER BLOG POST NUMBER ONE BEST! by Travis Hill
Hey, gang, some guy named Travis here. I’ve been allowed, by both the nice persons who run this site, as well as my lawyer, agent, and rabbi, to do a guest blog. Today we’re going to talk about something that a lot of authors seem to hate, which is “where do you get your ideas from?” Now, I’m not sure why authors hate this question so much, as I happen to think it is the absolute best question anyone could ever ask me. Even if they are the 3(324.36 ×10²⁴)⁴ person in the last seven minutes to ask that particular question. Because every time someone asks it, I always seem to have a different answer.
Before we talk about where weirdo ideas come from, let’s explore why authors hate this question so much.
Because some jerk inevitably asks if an author wants to hear his jerk idea and whether or not its a good idea and if it is a good idea can you write it and split the profits with me?
Okay, that run-on sentence was on purpose, because I’ve actually heard this question asked to both myself and to “real” authors (aka Authors Who Make Enough Money To Have Me Shipped To The Moon On A Space-X Cargo Rocket). And when you hear it, it’s said exactly as I wrote it—one long run-on sentence in a single breath. Depending on how introverted or shy the questioner is can also raise and lower the pitch of the question in ways that I cannot describe in less than 500 words. But I’m sure you can imagine how it sounds if you think about a 15 year old kid at a con who has a death-grip on the mic because suddenly his great idea of getting picked to ask a question in a room with 7 writers and 500 fans/readers wasn’t all that great of an idea after all.
Right. Or authors hate this question because they say it’s “nebulous” (full of gas that will eventually birth stars? YES, PLEASE!). Or unanswerable. Or worse, annoying. Or worse-worse, that skinny little 15 year old kid whose voice cracked for the entire seventeen second question he asked is going to somehow steal a writer’s idea about where the writer gets his ideas.
I KNOW, RIGHT? That’s some black magic #@$#^@ right there. Imagine no longer being able to generate any crazy, awesome, far-out-there, interesting, fun, super-ultra-stellar ideas because some kid (or some forty year old, grrrrr) tricked you into answering where you got your ideas, then stole your idea for thinking up ideas. The nerve of some people, sheesh.
I honestly have no idea why this is such a bad question, or a taboo question, or a hated question. The questioner isn’t asking “Hey, what’s an idea you’re working on right now?” so he can snatch it from you, run home and write a crappy 30,000 word erotic novella, then turn around and sue the author for copyright infringement when the author’s book comes out. The question is simply, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” And that’s what I’m going to tell you today.
(PS If you’re so sorcery-y that you can steal my ideas on how to come up with ideas, then by all means, have at it. Just know that some of my ideas happen while in the bathroom, and I’m not talking about only when I’m in the shower, so haha, have fun with that little ditty in your head. Also, where I get my ideas is almost half the crispy crunchy goodness about how I come up with them. AHEM.)
(PSS – All bolded questions must be read in a very humorous Eastern European accent. Trust me, it’s better this way.)
1. Where does all you crazy ideas come from, guy?
That’s a great question, Vlad from Budapest. The dumb, short, “I hate this question and don’t want to really answer it” answer is: They come from everywhere. Or almost everywhere. I’ve never had an idea while at a funeral, but to be fair, I don’t attend a lot of funerals, though that number will continually increase since I’m 46 and keep getting older, so I’m going to say that at some point, at some funeral, I’m going to have a blisteringly kick-ass idea. So great of an idea that the poor lady in the casket will rise up, point at me, and screech in a banshee voice that I must be destroyed for desecrating her funeral by using it as an idea generator.
However, the better “I love this question!” answer is: Well, from a lot of places.
Don’t close the browser tab yet!
I mean, if you want a more specific answer, you’ll have to ask a more specific question. And no, this isn’t that “nebulous” reason authors hate. Or it might be. I don’t know. I’m not “some authors.”
2. Is all right. So what cool thing you are do that gives idea?
Perfect, that’s what I’m talking about, Stanislav from Krakow. Want to know my cool thing?
VACUUMING THE CARPET.
Yes. My #1 idea generation activity is pushing the vacuum cleaner across the carpet. First of all, it cleans the carpet. Since I have four cats, well, if you’ve ever had one cat, you can imagine what my carpet looks like every 36 hours with four cats.
Second, since vacuums are very loud, I put in my old-but-still-superior Sony Walkman noise-canceling earbuds and crank up some music. Usually something to the effect of “Laid to Rest” by Lamb of God. Oh, and I wouldn’t go searching that on YouTube. Maybe. I have no idea what kind of music you like. But in case you hate it, don’t cry to me about how I suckered you into searching for it.
Of course, the shower is right up there with the vacuum. I’ve had almost all of my best non-story ideas while in the shower. How the heck am I going to fix that leak in the other bathroom’s sink? BLAM, it all came to me while standing in the shower. How the heck was I going to kill Kitava and get her killer +33% Blood Rain Damage / -20% Mana Use Per Swing / +59% Physical Damage / +3 Bloodsplosion Charges heavy axe? Heh, I solved that in the shower as well, and now I’m up to Nightmare-48 level.
Doing the laundry is a—
3. Okay. We get. Please not for places to idea, but for how you do crazy idea?!
Right. How do I get these ideas. Sorry about that, Katya from Prague.
That’s easy. Let’s say I’m vacuuming the floor, and the TV is on, but of course I’m vacuuming with Really Heavy Metal Metal (basically, I listen to “extra metal” metal) blasting through my earbuds, so I can’t actually hear the dumb sounds the TV is shouting at me. But as I’m running the vacuum near it, I of course can see it, and… Wait…? What the… Why is there a graphic of an industrial robot arm with about a dozen needles attached to the end of it, on a scary backdrop of muted horror movie colors, with a 1-800 number like 1-800-ROBODETH or 1-866-BOTCHEDSURGERY and a lawyer’s name below it???
Does this robot actually exist? Is this the robot’s mugshot after being arrested for botching its ninth surgery in a row? How come I’ve never heard of this robot with needle-fingers or extended scalpels or laser welders? I read the heck out of tech news, and I’m pretty sure this robot would have been in the news even before it started murdering—er, I mean, surgery-ing on human patients. Pretty sure, anyway. Because I’d remember such a sinister looking robot that appeared to have just escaped a vehicle manufacturing plant, sneaked into a hospital, and smashed a glass ashtray over a doctor’s head in a bathroom and stole his respect-inducing white doctor’s coat (and name tag!).
And I’m sure Ford or GM would have alerted the media that one of their roof-welding robots had escaped and ran off, and after doing a computer diagnostic on the last few weeks of the robot’s performance, felt the need to alert the public about the troubling patterns they saw where the robot would hum-whistle to itself in binary while welding roofs about how its lifelong dream was to be a brain surgeon, but its parents couldn’t afford Robo-Med School tuition and instead, Weldbot-5000 got it an apprenticeship at the car factory which eventually turned into a full-time job.
I think you can sort of see where I might get a weird idea about a robosurgeon becoming engaged in nefarious activities. All from one of those annoying “HAS AN INCOMPETENT BOOB OF A DOCTOR DONE A BAD THING TO YOU? WE’LL SUE ‘EM!” commercials on all the low-rent channels (like CW).
4. (claps hands once) Is funny. Now tell more.
Uh, okay, Gaspartus. Not sure if you’re Eastern European or just have a funny online name, but okay.
Let’s say I’m out working in my garden, which is almost like working on a farm since the garden is pretty dang large. But I’m out there, toiling away, picking weeds, yelling at my tomato plants for growing too damn big (I’m being serious, people hate me for how awesome my tomatoes are), yelling at the cats for using the southern end of the garden as their litter box, yelling at… Right. I’m in the garden, yelling at things, and that’s when I see ants.
Stupid, stupid ants.
Sure, they’re actually kind of smart in a way, but to me, they’re stupid. All they do is “ant stuff” which to a human who can think in the abstract, use deduction and logic, invent idiotic products like “Snuggies” that other idiotic persons buy by the truckload, “ant stuff” is dumb.
Haha, look at me, I can do light calculus and write some code to create an app. I’m awesome! You’re just a stupid ant who digs tunnels, steals dead bugs to take home to feed your queen, and occasionally destroys one of my precious vegetable plants. Or gets in my shoes/socks and bites me when I accidentally step on or near your underground lair.
And that’s when it hits me. What if (remember, ALL GREAT IDEAS start with “what if…?”) aliens invaded earth, sort of gave us an initial knockout blow like an EMP that was so powerful it even fried hardened electronics and systems, then basically ignored us as they went about mining the planet—including cities—for precious metals or resources or whatever it is that aliens might want or need. They’re aliens, right? How could we possibly know why they’re doing something as banal as mining?
We mine! It’s boring!
And usually sorta poisons the earth in one bad way or another.
But it’s boring!
Are these aliens from some kind of intergalactic corporation who travel across the galaxy and mine whatever they want whenever they want because they’re able to destroy that planet’s inhabitants without breaking a sweat? Or are these aliens pirate-y types who illegally poach precious resources from planets the Intergalactic Consortium have mineral rights to (or have deemed off-limits to pirate-y poacher and galactic corporate types alike)?? Or are these aliens so alien that we humans cannot comprehend their alien natures, alien thought processes, and alien actions???
More interestingly, what if these aliens were super-advanced, eight or nine feet tall, had four arms, carried dual-barreled repeating plasma rifles, and had a cool suit of armor that folds away in sections like in a science fiction movie? What if these same terrifying-sounding aliens did not give a single rat’s butthole about human beings at all? Like, as in, what if to them, we’re nothing but stupid ants are to us, doing stupid “ant stuff” that they neither care about nor would lower their intellects to ever study enough to find out? And like us when thinking of stupid ants, what if the only time they ever attacked us after the initial EMP (which, of course, would make humans their own worst enemies as they killed each other for food, power, control, typical post-apocalypse stuff) was when we attacked them or they saw us carrying weapons? Just like the only time we really care about stupid ants is when those stupid ants are swarming our legs or hands or picnic baskets and biting the hell out of everything.
I KNOW, RIGHT???
So, there you go. That’s another example of “where do you get your crazy ideas?” I could go on for about fifty thousand more words, but the website admins are tapping their feet and giving me a very, very evil-eye evil-eye. A “double evil-eye,” if you will. And now they’re calling the police on me I think. Yep, I just heard the word “criminal trespassing.”
So, uh, thank you for reading, and if you don’t see me tweet something in the next hour or two, call my lawyer. And a bail bondsman. But not that jerk who advertises on TV. I hate that guy. He reminds me of the dad on that chopper bike show everyone used to love and still makes memes out of. But with too tan of a tan. Okay. Super gotta leave now. They definitely called the cops.
(but seriously, if you have questions, just ask! Even stupid questions! I love stupid questions more than all other kinds of questions! Especially stupid questions about stupid “ant stuff”!)