I have gotten the question, "where do you get your ideas?" It's not the most common writerly question I get but it's certainly happened more than once. My first word in response is: "Everywhere." And that's true. But some particularly fertile places for ideas for me are:
2. Overheard conversations, particularly "misheard" ones
3. Reading science
4. Reading history
5. Nature (both seeing it and listening to it)
That's not particularly the topic of my post today, though. I want to talk about the fact that, for me, I get two types of ideas. The first kind are those that leap into my mind fully formed. Imagine kicking through some debris and turning over a perfectly cut and polished little jewel. Maybe there's a little dirt on it to brush off, but once that's done the jewel is ready to keep or to sell. For me, this happens most prominently with flash fiction, and sometimes with longer short stories. But not with novels.
As an analogy for the second kind of idea I get, imagine digging through a cave somewhere and uncovering a fossil. Only, it's not the whole fossil. It's just a single big bone. You dig around a little more and find another bone, and then pieces of others. The finding is pretty easy but now the hard work begins. As any paleontologist will tell you, getting a fossil out of the ground is back breaking work, and after that you have to put it all together, which requires even more hours of time. This is most often how my novels get put together. And sometimes it happens this way for stories, usually longer pieces. I get a big idea and realize there are a lot of smaller ideas all nestled around it. Then I have to dig it out, start putting it together, find on occasion that I’ve put something together wrong and have to back track. But finally you have a finished piece.
So, for those of you who are writers, is this something similar to what happens for you? Or is the process very different?