But for now, let's pretend we're still friends and we'll therefore be more than willing to discuss
Where Ideas Come From, Or I Seriously Hope Andrew And Rusty Don't Talk To Lawyers.
I am more or less as I write this hard at work on a new story of mine, one that started out as a short story but has hit nearly 50 pages now in just over a week, and that story came to me from the unlikely source of a joke about how few people bother to read my blog, and Andrew Leon's comment about being the man mentioned in that joke.
About 9 days ago, I posted one of my increasingly-rare forays into the world of sports, a guide to the then-not-yet-started NFL playoffs. They're almost over now, but don't let that stop you from going and reading it, because it has very, very little to do with sports, as is the case with most of my sports posts.
I began that post with a joke about how if someone was a regular reader of that blog, there was a 90% chance that person was Andrew Leon. Get it? Because he reads it and nobody else does? And also because investigation will almost certainly prove that the person/web presence we know as "Andrew Leon" is merely a clever computer 'bot program created in 1997 by the same man who would go on to father nearly three members of "One Direction." (I say that because although "Andrew Leon" maintains that he has a corporeal presence, has ANYONE other than his family members, friends, associates,neighbors, and people at the supermarket ever seen him in person? I REST MY CASE.)
Andrew, in response to that joke, posted this comment:
But you're also saying is that there's a 10% chance that I'm -not- Andrew Leon... I don't know how I feel about that. I've thought all this time that I was Andrew Leon but, now, there's a chance that I'm not. How do I find out? Is there, like, a testing center somewhere? I think there's a story in there somewhere, but I'm not going to look for it, right now.
To which I said:
I'm not sure R2 is likeable. The more I think about it, the more I DON'T like him. Which is a lot like the Saints. I think there might be an even greater than 10% chance you are not Andrew Leon. If you stuck out a whole football post? I'd get tested, right away. Your right. There is a story there. Like a Philip K. Dick story: Find Out Who You Are.
There's two important points there: first, R2-D2 is not a likeable character. He's a blank, a cipher onto which people project their own emotions, much the way we do with other things that most likely have no emotions or separate reality, like cats, houseplants, 40% of our kids, etc. etc., but that's for another day.
The second part is there WAS a story there: I thought about that comment that Andrew made, and the one I made back, and about two hours later (after letting in the DirecTV guy who was here to move the box from downstairs to upstairs) I sat down and wrote this:
The store popped up one day, in the kind of minimall in which stores were always popping up one day and then disappearing the next: a lunch counter serving real, ‘retro’ sandwiches. A repair shop for servobots. A souvenir stand
(Souvenirs of what, Robbie wondered)
That store was the "Find Out Who You Are" store, and from that beginning paragraph I've gotten nearly 50 pages, so far, of what (I hope) is a Phillip K. Dick type of story about Robbie and Archie and Louis and their boss (?) Koss Ernst and an unnamed corporation all in the near future, and featuring people who may or may not be who they think they are.
That was not the ONLY time I've gotten ideas from offhand comments people made. My story for Andrew's contest, "The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!?" (which actually is a much, MUCH grimmer story than that title would imply) got its title from Rusty's mentioning fish tacos (and features Rusty, Andrew, and PT in cameo roles as near-godlike beings). Earlier than that, I wrote a story called "This Stupid Pineapple Is..." which again came from a phrase Rusty threw out there. (Rusty, apparently, is my muse. I hope he's not uncomfortable with that. He shouldn't be. I'm still maintaining the 500 yards distance mandated by court order and I hardly EVER get pictures of him tattooed on me anymore.)
So the point is, from a trade-off of jokes and a reference to a style of writing -- Phillip K. Dick is a particular style of sci-fi -- I got a whole story idea, one that has grown beyond the 5-10 pages I planned on to become, probably, a novel when it's done. (That alone is not proof that the idea is good: I could write 10,000 words on, say, building a walk-in closet.) (My home-repair/gardening posts, like my sports posts, have VERY LITTLE to do with those topics, which I know almost nothing about. They are, like most of my writing, 90% about pizza and the rest stuff I plagiarized from the second half of John Steinbeck books. Nobody ever reads an entire John Steinbeck book, so I'm pretty safe.)
That's how I get my ideas: something I see or hear or think about sparks something in me, and from there I decide to start writing and see where it goes. Sometimes it goes nowhere -- I've had stories that I quit on, although rarely for reasons I'll go into in the future -- but mostly it goes in almost entirely unexpected directions.
And I know that I am supposed to end posts like this with a question to get people to leave a comment, so I will do that:
Where do you get your story ideas from, and do you agree that it would be really, really, mean for Andrew and Rusty to sue me?
Here is the story "The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!?"
"This Stupid Pineapple Is..." was the second in a series of sci-fi stories starring nearly-failed UFO Maker Nick and his wife, Other Sexy Cop. It's not available online anymore, but will be out in book form eventually. Until then, the first Nick and Other Sexy Cop adventure can be found in a 99-cent ebook, "Santa, Godzilla & Jesus Walk Into A Bar: The Greatest Xmas Story Ever Told."