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  • William L Culbertson

Where do I get my ideas?

I often use a sort of “bedtime-wandering” technique. While I’m trying to fall asleep, my mind wanders off in all sorts of directions. How do I keep from dwelling on the past day’s failures or tomorrow’s challenges? I wander off down the road to fantasy or science fiction.

I may get an idea for an intriguing incident, a heroic triumph, an unbearably romantic moment, etc. I play around with it. How would various types of characters react to it? How interesting are those reactions? Where would this take place? Maybe I'll get an idea for an interesting character I'd like to write about. What could he/she encounter that would push him to have to deal with their worst qualities? Their best?

Out of all the random bird-walking, I often find myself coming upon the tracks of ideas I've followed before. Sometimes the tracks are heading in the same direction. Once a track gets trod down into a path, I have a direction to go with the story. The whole picture will not be there, but I’ll have a piece of a story, a direction. I enjoy revisiting familiar pieces of stories, but what really makes me sit up in bed is when I see a connection between two pieces. This piece leads to that one, and suddenly there are new twists and implications I hadn’t seen before. Sometimes several more pieces get drawn into the picture and a real story with a beginning, middle, and end emerges.

It may take me a while of playing around with a story at bedtime to be confident enough I know what is going to happen. Once the story has jelled (a very apt word because the structure is still sort of like jello), I can start to write it.

So what is going on in my head these days? The fourth book in the Chronicles of the Dragon Bound had stalled, but after some wandering through the social wilderness around the city of Silverdale, I think I have some suitably nasty ideas for real heroic conflict. I also have a hot idea for a new Starship story, but I have to wander around in it some more to develop an interesting narrative.

Summer vacation is almost upon me, but before I can do too much new writing, I have to deal with some editing projects to get the books I have written out the door. That will be a good thing, because you will actually get to enjoy them instead of just watching me natter on about writing.

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