I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. My mom tells me that I told my first story at age three, and I’ve found a story that I wrote in first grade about a horse that saves a cowboy from an angry bull. I’ve been writing fairly consistently since then, whether it was novels, short stories, plays, or even screenplays. And as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been asked the same question: where do I get my ideas?
Usually when faced with this question, I list what I consider to be some of my influences. I’ll mention particular authors, movies, and video games that I feel have helped shape the way I craft a story. I may even mention some life experiences that I’ve had that show up in various forms in my work.
But there’s more to it than that.
I’m a daydreamer, which is a kind way of saying that I have trouble focusing. I’m easily bored with reality and regularly imagine myself taking part in situations and adventures far more interesting than my mundane surroundings. This meant that when I was young I would spend a lot of time by myself playing make-believe. I never grew out of that. I still regularly retreat to my imagination to play, and that’s where most of my story ideas come from.
I start by taking something that I like. A book, movie, or game that was fun but wasn’t exactly what I would have wanted it to be. Then I start taking elements of other things to add to it to make it better, and finally insert myself into the middle of it to personally go on this adventure I just created.
Many of these daydreams remain just that, daydreams. They entertain me for the moment and then fade away. But some of them remain, and I build on them. As I find more things that I like, I add them to the daydream and it continues to grow. Eventually, I may have a daydream that has developed into something that sounds like it could work as a possible story. At that point, I start looking at the original idea with a critical eye and make adjustments so that it’s more accessible to other people. I change the hero slightly so that he isn’t blatantly me, giving the character his own strengths, flaws, hopes, and fears. I also give him a specific, primary conflict to solve, so that the plot can revolve around him getting from point A to the distant point B. Luckily, my daydreams are usually such a blended collage of random influences I rarely need to adjust the setting to set it apart from those sources that originally inspired it.
That’s my best attempt at explaining where my ideas come from. For me, they’re all fantasies in my head that have slowly grown to the point that I feel like I could develop them into something to share with my friends and fans. Perhaps this is why all of my stories are such personal works for me, and why I am always so happy when someone seems to genuinely connect with one of my pieces. In that moment, it’s like that child playing by himself among the trees behind his house has a friend, and we’re playing make-believe in perfect harmony.
A big shout-out to the fantastic members of my Readers Community:
Randall Hodgson, Jerry Staton, Mandy Vincelette, Matthew Paxman, Yoshiyuki Nishikawa, Wil Sisney, Jarred Walton, Joel Stanger, and Kelly Wilbur.
If you’d like to learn more about my Readers Community, check out the following link: