Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ideas Bouncing Theory


I think the most frequently asked question that an author gets is "Where do you get your ideas?" The first time I heard Brandon Sanderson speak, he told us his theory. I kind of love it, so I'm going to share it with you guys.

He said that every time he comes across something that he thinks is cool (inspired by a movie, a character, a book-- whatever), he writes it down, and sends it into his brain to bounce around.

Notice he doesn't just use the idea as soon as he gets it. That first idea is likely to have been done a million times already. He sticks it in his brain, and lets it bounce around with all of the other ideas in there. Any one of those ideas by itself could've been okay, but the magic comes when two ideas stick together. Usually when they stick, they are things that are unique. Different. They have their own sets of conflicts inherent to just plain being together.

When they stick, that's when you have an idea that will allow your own special twist on things, that will make it different from everything else out there.

He gave the example of his book MISTBORN. (If you haven't read it, ohmygosh READ IT! Seriously. It's fabulous. Even if you don't love fantasy, you'll still be able to appreciate the unfathomable amount of thought that went into it.) Anyway, Brandon watched a heist movie. I can't even remember which one, but after he watched it, he thought about how much he really loved heist movies, and stuck that idea in his brain to bounce around. He already had another thought in his head-- the magic system that he used for a previous book that hadn't worked out. He didn't love the main character or the setting, but the magic system was awesome. (And trust me when I say he wasn't wrong.) Those two ideas stuck, and he wrote a heist novel, where each person in the group had a different magical specialty.

Two common ideas--- a heist and a magic system where each person with a magical ability only has one ability--- that were unique and different and interesting when they were put together.

I don't know about you, but the idea of ideas bouncing around in my head not only sounds pretty effective, but makes it all sound SO MUCH MORE FUN.

36 comments:

Jack said...

Most of my really good ideas come when I'm shaving. Those 10 precious minutes in the morning makes for my most productive time for the whole day. I usually walk away with something extraordinary I mull over for a few hours to a few days. By the time I write it down, the idea flourished into a full-blown story, plot element, sub-plot or the like.

Cristina said...

that's really great advice. My ideas come... when I'm not thinking about writing.. or when I'm doing something mindless like knitting or running :)

Delia said...

Interesting way to put it (and awesome picture). It's very similar to Stephen King's process, except he doesn't write anything down. I'll stick with Brandon's method. If I don't write it down, it bounces right out an ear.

Nick Wilford said...

Great post! All too often I'm guilty of forgetting an idea as soon as I write it down, though it has usually marinated for a little bit first. Maybe that just means the ideas aren't strong enough?

I was going to mention Stephen King too - marrying two unrelated subjects. It's something I've tried to bear in mind but not really done effectively. I'm going to give bouncing a go!

Annalisa Crawford said...

I agree - getting two ideas sticking together can be the start of something wonderful. It's happened to me - I'm waiting for another collision at the moment.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Brandon has a good strategy. Some movies and books have inspired me to write, but I'm not sure if I think about a specific sentence.

Tara Tyler said...

that would be my brain, bouncing with ideas. not nec all good, but lots of them!

Chris Fries said...

Great concept -- I'm picturing like a giant lotto game where the random winning balls come bouncing out:

"Today's winning writing ideas are... A rutabaga... Attacking aliens... Property taxes... and... A kitty. Now write!"

Wonderful A-to-Z, Peggy!

JeffO said...

This is how a lot of my ideas come. Two different things that get stuck together in some back room of the brain. Some things hide in that dark space for months before they find the right 'partner' to stick to.

Valerie Hartman said...

I can't ever get enough process ideas--it is inspiring to hear how others make sense of their process. Great post and I will look for Mistborn as well!

Kimberlee Turley said...

You are so right with first ideas not always being the greatest.

I like to let ideas bounce in my head, and then I like to let them bounce off of other people. Someone else could comment on something and while their first idea won't be good either, it helps me think of something else that is.

Patti said...

I get ideas from just talking to my family and watching the news. But I need to work on writing them down because inevitably I'll forget.

S. L. Hennessy said...

I sometimes say that I don't suffer from writer's block, I have writer's ADD - too many ideas. Guess its just all those ideas bouncing around in my head :)

Joshua said...

Most of my ideas come while I'm sleeping, so I suppose that's my brain's way of bouncing an idea TO me. I might not know it's really there, but then my mind thinks I'm ready for it and bounces the idea to me in a dream. Hmm...

Julie said...

I haven't read Mistborn and now I definitely want to. One more to add to my TBR list!

I love this image of ideas bouncing around in our brains. Great post!

Shallee said...

I love this theory! It's usually how my ideas become stories. Some of them bounce and stick to others quickly, while some I've been letting bounce around for months or years, waiting for the right ideas to come together. Thanks for sharing, Peggy!

Rhonda Parrish said...

I also subscribe to Brandon's Ideas Bounce Theory (though I'd never had a cool name to give it before now LOL), and I've just mentally added Mistborn to my to be read list :)

Happy A to Z! :)

J. A. Bennett said...

Love this! What a great theory, and that picture is cool :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

This a brilliant way of thinking about things. Oh and I went to put Mistborn on my To-Read list and it's already there. Hmm...maybe I should get on that.

Elodie said...

So I need to put Mistborn on my TBR :D
I love this idea of Ideas Bouncing around in my head theory...I can almost hear them collide, fall in love and make pretty babies for me to put on paper :D

nutschell said...

i love this! most of my good ideas come when I'm commuting to work and listening to my audiobooks.
Happy A-Zing!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Clarissa Draper said...

I think you're (and he is) right, the ideas need to bounce around a bit to be the best. I love mulling over my ideas and sometimes they become better.

Jaime Morrow said...

What a great idea :) I think mashups of different types of genres, etc. are kind of all the rage right now too. Not to mention they just make for a far more compelling story, popular or not.

Great 'I' post :)

Michelle said...

Yes yes!
Ideas ideas bouncing around all the time. In then shower, as I'm drifting off to sleep, while I'm people watching.
So many ideas so little time!

Leigh Covington said...

More brilliance from Ms. Eddleman's blog! Yes - I think so! And I completely agree. I think my current WIP is about 3 ideas formed into one. That's why it works though and I love it. And I agree - ideas bouncing around just sounds like so much fun!

Jessie Humphries said...

My brain is like a pinball machine. I am lucky if any of my ideas come out in coherent sentences! I think you have an author crush on Mr. Sanderson, btw. Just sayin'. :). Sorry Lance-a-lot!

Krista McLaughlin said...

Bouncing around ideas is a great idea! I usually bounce them around in my head for a while and if they are good enough they end up on scraps of papers, then on lined sheets of paper and eventually a document and become written. :) I also like to bounce ideas off other people.

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

Peggy,
I love learning how people's minds work and especially how an author got his idea for a book...awesome!

I might have to get that book. Sound good!

The Write Soil
1st Writes

S.P. Bowers said...

A bouncy house in my head. Sounds fun. And thanks for the book suggestion. :)

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Sometimes it's really tempting to get right into a story, but I like to have them marinate a bit. Every time I jump in to a story too soon, I regret it because it just isn't ready. Great post!

E.D. said...

It is great to be able to read about how others get (and develop) ideas - interesting how ideas come to many of us when not writing or thinking about writing...

Angela Brown said...

That is an excellent point. It is good to let the idea bounce around. Heck, even if it is a slow day in Brainland - hey, it can happen - that bouncing idea might knock something interesting loose, something unexpected that adds and builds to make something exciting, dark or wonderful to get into novel form.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

This is exactly how I get ideas! Although, in my dotage, I find some of the ideas tend to get lost, so if it's something I think I might forget, I also write it down somewhere :)

Christa Desir said...

Yes. This is awesome. I need to do this more. I also need to write things down as I think of them. I used to remember everything. But now, I'm maybe too old or have too many ideas and don't remember it so much anymore.

Daisy Carter said...

This is a great concept - I've never thought of it as "Bouncing Ideas," and I love it! This meshing of two or more ideas just happened to me, and I'm loving where it's going. Now I know what it's called!

Charlie Holmberg said...

Amen! Orson Scott Card always marinates his ideas, too, so he says. I've noticed that more than half of the cool ideas I get die away after a few days--my favorites are the ones that stick around. ;)