So today, I was perusing the offerings on audible.com, and taking a peek through things they were suggesting. My brain heard “Space Horse” and so I clicked on that, thinking it sounded like a comedic scifi book.
Turns out, I heard it wrong. It was Space Force. I’m sure it is a good book, but I was disappointed not to have found Space Horse, the novel. Then I began wondering what Space Horse might be about. Would it be a sentient horse in space complete with equine space suit? Perhaps a space horse is some sort of single-passenger spaceship you ride like a horse or motorcycle, with the passenger being a renegade space cowboy? With a title like that, it would have to be humourous.
And this is where my ideas come from. No one has ever asked me where I get my ideas from, largely because I’m not published and not enough people know I write short stories let alone novels, but I am told that many published authors get asked this.
The answer is anywhere and everywhere. A lot of times, it’s just a ‘what if’ that pops into my brain. The short story I posted here last week was born as a union of two different ideas. What if internet algorithms were sentient, and what would fairy names be like if they were modernized That led to Pixel the pixie showing up in the main character’s phone one day and offering her a commission. The main character isn’t me. Honest. I do not have pixies in my apartment.
Any random thing can trigger one of these. Sometimes, a book turns out to be completely different than expected, and I wonder what it would be like if it had gone the route I had expected. Somewhere in my brain is a space ark story where the inhabitants are loaded onto enormous ships with the ostensible mission of finding a new home as this one is now uninhabitable, and several generations later all is not going well with shipboard society. That’s pretty standard. My twist on it would be that it turns out that all the ships were a lie, as humanity never quite developed the technology in time, so instead the ships are merely orbitting earth or possibly even buried on earth to keep everyone safe until the planet is once more inhabitable. Because I thought that was where a story was going, and liked my ending better. I may one day write it, if I ever figure out how the ship’s systems fool all the humans into believing this lie. But perhaps not, I think I do better at fantasy than scifi.
Sometimes, it is even more general than that. I found myself wishing that someone would write something akin to the Narnia books, but for adults and with an adult protagonist. How would a grown up Lucy have responded to Mr. Tumnus at the lamppost? I kept on wishing someone would write this until I realized that there was an answer… I could write it. I have written it. Two drafts of it. No, it isn’t literally Narnia for adults, but it follows that premise.
If you are someone who wants to write, but you find that when you sit down to come up with an idea you get a complete blank, which used to be the case for me, here is my best advice: start paying attention to the weird twists and turns your mind takes. Pay attention to any “what if” your brain throws up and pursue that idea. Write it down. Play with it. You may wind up with a story.
They’re not all going to work out, but perhaps some of them will. I may never write that space ark con novel, but I did write the adult girl from our world winding up in a fantasy realm with magic, frightfully idiotic unicorns, man-eating pegasi and fairies with cat ears. And I will continue to take note of the weird notions my brain throws at me.
Giddyup, Space Horse.