From Whence Inspiration?
Where do story ideas come from? I suppose that for some writers they take a familiar story and add a unique twist (or twists) to make it their own. Mine just sort of burst into my head like an uninvited neighbor. I may be glad to see it, but sometimes the timing might not be ideal. You know - the middle of the night on a Tuesday, while my wife is trying to explain something important to me..... that sort of thing. It'd be super handy if I could just fix myself a cup of coffee, sit down to do some writing, and then say "ok, you can come in now", but that's not how it works for me.
In about 2012 (I say "about" because it feels like a lifetime ago), I was driving to work one morning (55 minutes one way) when the seed for The Protocols of Uma came crashing through my windshield. "What if a group of space travelers came back home after a long trip only to discover that 'home' had sort of gone to Hell?" I spent the next month or so pondering this question during my daily commutes. I considered having a group that acted as "history erasers" that took subtle actions to change the contents of not just the history books, but the original sources themselves. This group had secret bases where they had different sorts of paper, papyrus, etc. along with era appropriate inks, training sessions on how to write in ways consistent with certain periods (in both content and style), etc. These "history erasers", of course, were aliens. But as I worked through the logistics of such a story, I decided it was practically unwriteable (at least by me). But a modified version of this concept did end up making it into TPOU and became one of the main pillars of the entire series.
My plots tend to be centered more around themes and ideas than they do things like a particular character I want to write, a setting I want to use, etc. I try to use conventional plot tools like suspense and conflict to keep the reader involved, but my true aim (busted!) is to take some interesting ideas and smash them together inside the reader's mind all dialectic-like so the reader can decide on her own where the pieces land. The fascination of "what if?" is irresistible to me. Counter-factual history, for example, is intellectual crack cocaine ("What if Jesus lived until He was 90?"). That's a big reason why I write in the genres that I do. High technology and magic are such tremendous tools to twist traditional intellectual conflicts (good vs evil, pragmatism vs idealism, freedom vs determinism, etc) into strange new configurations, allowing reader and writer alike to explore new possibilities.
So where do my story ideas come from? Left field. Outer space. The Abyss. Dimension X. I don't really know. But once they arrive, they are all mine and I will happily contort them just to see what happens.