This is a question that every writer gets- Where do your ideas come from? The truth is, ideas come from everywhere. Ideas can come from your own experiences, random overheard conversations, brainstorming or jottings in a notebook, and of course, like Neil Gaiman, from The Idea of the Month Club (it’s a joke).
Louis Sachar says that the original idea for writing his classic middle school novel Holes, came from being in the Texas heat after returning from a vacation in Maine. The heat led to the setting which led to the story.
J.K Rowling first got the idea for Harry Potter while she was delayed on a train. The idea grew from there, and she wrote for years, mostly in long hand, and planned out the whole arc of the series before she wrote the first book.
Katherine Applegate, who wrote The One and Only Ivan, based her story of a Gorrilla living in a mall, on an actual news story. The news story was just something to get her imagination flowing, and the characters and situation, the humor and all the emotions came from her.
The idea for Wonder by R.J Palacio, came when her 3 year old cried at the sight of a little girl with a severe facial deformity. She felt bad about the reaction, and her empathy for what it must be like to be a kid whose appearance is so different from others was the driving force to write the novel.
Rebecca Staid, the author of Newberry winner When You Reach Me, a delightful book about friendship and time travel, says her ideas start with the character, and the plot developes naturally from there.
Paperboy by Vince Vawter, came from his memories of growing up in Memphis in the late 50s with a stutter. The novel talks about friendship, civil rights and how to understand adults, and the story builds on his personal experiences, and is all the more realistic because of this.
The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Birkenshaw, is a moving novel about a young girl growing up in Hiroshima Japan during World War II, right before they dropped the bomb. The idea for the novel came from her hearing her grandmother’s stories about what life was like then.
The idea for my first novel, a thriller, Living Proof, came from listening to an interview about Karla Faye Tucker, a women on death row who had changed her whole life and become a born again Christian while in prison. The novel had nothing to do with that, but it is what first sparked my creativity. The idea for Summer on Earth was a result of an image I remembered when waking up from a dream. In the dream, I was on a porch, looking in through a window at a television set. I started writing about that image, and came out with the concept of an extraterrestrial’s first glimpse of human life coming from a TV.
It is interesting finding out where authors get their inspiration, but ideas are just the start. Ideas are everywhere, it is the execution that makes the magic when the idea turns into a great novel.