Kevin's Blog

Stimuli

The worst question for any writer is the old chestnut, "where do you get your ideas?" The best answer I ever heard to this, and I really wish I could remember who said it, was "from my head." While that sounds like a snarky response, it's actually fairly on target. From a strictly linear point of view, where else would anyone get ideas for anything? 

A related question I often get is "do you dream up ideas and then write them down?"  I wish I could scoff and dismiss such an absurd proposition, but the fact is that has happened once or twice. Most notably with "The Old Dogs," one of my favorite and, in my opinion, most intense stories I've ever written. But once or twice, at the most, is all I ever got out of dreams. 

I've also done the free association thing from time to time where I grab a random volume of the encyclopedia (yes I still have print encyclopedias at home), open it up to no particular page and go from there. I take whatever article my eyes light upon, type it on the computer, then type the next word that comes to mind, and the next, and the next. Sometimes this works wonders, sometimes it doesn't pan out at all. Two stories that come to mind that evolved this way are "The Conduit" and "Eighty Feet Deep."

But my favorite of all is the absolutely random, out-of-the-blue inspiration that pops up in everyday life. To that end, here's a partial list of everyday things that have generated stories in my mind. In order to put myself in the best possible light, I'm only listing stimuli of stories that actually got published:

 

An odd yard sign in a residential area of town -- "The Sleeping Room"

A solitary wall, the last one standing from an old barn, in a field in Iowa - "Visage"

A focus group discussion on a cable news show -- The Group

A late night rerun of an episode of Married with Children -- "One Helluva Gig"

The Midwestern drought a few years back -- "So Deep You can Fall in 'Em"

A stray memory of visiting a state fair when I was very young -- "Remembering the Ape Girl"

Lying in bed in my new apartment, unable to go to sleep because of the sound of trains running all night long -- "Deliberates"

 

Now that I think of it, this wouldn't be a bad theme for a collection, linking up everyday stimuli with stories. 

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