From Whence the Ideas Flow
One of the questions I am asked the most is, “Where do your ideas for horror come from?” The answer seems easy and complicated, all at once. I get my ideas from everywhere. Any little, innocuous thing can trigger a story inside my head. Discussion with other writers unveils the discovery that our brains really do work differently than other folks’: we literally see the world in varying shades of possibilities that aren’t explored by everyone.
However, after further examination, I realized the answer could be narrowed down to four main sources for me:
- Nightmares. This is by far the main source of my horror stories. I’ve been immersed in horror stuff for most of my life and yet a scary dream can make me break out into a sweat and worry all day about something my imagination conjured up. If the nightmare is bad enough, it can become a recurring torture until I exorcise it and put it into a story.
- Submission calls. I’m notorious for missing submission calls. I see an idea that editors put out for a collection of stories and I think, “Yes! I want to write THAT story!” But then I play around with the words until the deadline has passed and it’s too late to submit to that call. I don’t know why regular, formal writing prompts don’t elicit this same excitement from me. At any rate, even though I miss the calls, I always get a good story out of the ones that get my attention.
- Other stories. Sometimes I read the work of other writers, in various genres, and I find inspiration in the stories they did not tell. For instance, I can read a story about two characters in a place and the things that I want to know are along the lines of: “Why are they at THAT house?”, “How does the tree feel about them carving initials into it?”, or “What if they had gone down the road the OTHER way?” These musings often turn into stories that have nothing at all to do with the original inspiration.
- Real life. Real life offers story ideas that can be overwhelming sometimes. Literally, any event has an element of the unknown, in my mind, and I’m often struck by stories in unsuspecting places. Many a creative writing workshop hinges on the question “What if…?” and this is how I view the world. Every occurrence has something that did not happen, and it’s those things that interest me most.
Surrounded by all this inspiration, I’ll never run out of ideas to write. This is a great problem to have because I know my creative well will never run dry.
Have more story inspiration you want to talk about? Hit me up in the comments section if you’d like the chance to win a free ebook.
R.J. Josephisa Texas-based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.
When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.
R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:
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Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph