As a writer, I’m often asked about where my ideas come from. It’s no simple thing to answer, because honestly ideas can come from anywhere. Thoughts, concepts, dreams, movies, books, art–there’s a plethora of things that can inspire anyone and anything that looks on them, which is why, I believe, that since our origins and our time on this planet (when we began to write on walls and tell stories between one another,) we’ve always been fascinated with this idea to express the things we are scared of, what we admire, what we are fascinated with, and, ultimately, what we hope for the future.
In my own personal experiences as a writer (through which I have some fourteen years of experience, given I started so young,) ideas normally come from one of three places.
1. Concepts and Symbolism. A lot of the stories in my collection Amorous Things come from the idea of simple concepts or symbolism. Stories in particular, like Elijah (which tells the story of a young man whose overbearing partner is obsessed with personal perfection,) comes from the idea of beauty. Other stories like The Glass Doe details the idea that life can be connected between more than just one body. Uncle shows how artistic tendencies can sometimes drive people crazy and An Amorous Thing, the title that the collection inspired by, describes a fear that I think all living, sentient things have–that after death, we can remain trapped in this world. In these stories the concepts are most obviously underlying (the perfection, the connection, the artistic tendencies, and death.) What tends to be overwhelming about these stories is the symbolism. In Elijah, the main character’s blossoming skin condition becomes the symbolism for the failure of physical perfection; in The Glass Doe, an animal that is made entirely out of glass and is still somehow acting like a natural, organic thing; and in An Amorous Thing, the idea of a corpse maintaining its sentient ‘soul’ is what’s utterly the most terrifying thing about it. As a writer, I try to do two things: entertain people and teach them about things, whether it be through concepts, ideas or my own personal experience. Through these concepts, ideas and experience, I try to convey things to people in ways that they understand, or in ways that I can understand them myself. While some of the more bizarre pieces in my collection might be over people’s comprehension (Playing God and Bellaerama come to mind,) I write certain pieces to understand myself, otherwise those concepts remain locked in my head.
2. Ideas. When I was initially rewriting Amorous Things, I had a story in my head that came from the idea of a city living beneath a floating entity the people below it called ‘God.’ When I first tried to write this story, I attempted to condense it into a novella. When that failed, I set the idea aside, then came back to it a year later and wrote the novel that became Utopia. One more year later it still remains somewhat-incomplete, and at nearly 200,000 words, it’s no surprise that within there is a plethora of concepts that run through it. Atheism, life after death, what it means to be a good person, what it means to do bad things—the novel, in a nutshell, tells the story of a perfect society collapsing when it is realized perfection is unobtainable. An idea like this—where ‘perfection’ dominates a world—is ultimately what spurs on my creative process, and that I believe of many others. The What If? here, in this instance, was just too great that I couldn’t not explore it.
3. Dreams. Last but not least, some of my ideas come from dreams. Many writers often tell me that their work is explicitly based off their dreams and only their dreams. For me, I dream very rarely, and when I do dream I dream things most people don’t normally dream—colors, images, sounds, locations, faces of people or animals. It’s a rare occasion whenever a dream comes to me fully-formed and realized, though whether or not that is due to the psychotropic drugs I take due to my mental disorder I am not sure. However—when I do dream fully-realized things, brilliant, abstract and downright-horrifying scenarios come to mind. One of my better-known contemporary stories, The Dog on Taylor Road, came from a fully-realized dream, in which I dreamed of a family pulling over at a truck stop, meeting a dog, then meeting the same creature at another truck stop to see its horrible fate. Quite notoriously, though, the abstract notion of my sleeping mind created my novella Wraethworld, which tells the story of a little girl whom, after being visited by a supernatural entity, stumbles into another world.
Symbolism, concepts, ideas and dreams are ultimately what fuel me as a writer. Within them I can explore almost every aspect of the world and the people and things within it. To be able to tell a story and convey a message in a nontraditional way is, I believe, one of my strongest gifts as a writer. For that I feel blessed, because more often than not, I tend to write stories that people don’t expect—which, in the end, always makes them more fun.