“Where do you get your ideas?”
I’m still not sure why that is such a common question non-writers ask writers. I wonder if what they really mean by that is not much where where the ideas come from, but something more along the lines of how your creative process works and what goes into coming up with a story.
Either way, the answer is the same. All writers get their ideas from the same place: Life.
We get our ideas by simply living life, making observations, and asking questions. There is nothing special about writers, regardless of what some of them may want you to believe. Seriously. To get an idea for a story, just live your life and look for things you experience that would make a good story.
So let’s use my weekend for an example.
A couple of day ago, before our family was stricken by the plaque (a regular monthly occurrence here) we took a trip to The Haunted Safari, a local Halloween attraction that they have been asking to go to literally for a year, as we couldn’t go last year because–you guessed it–we were sick.
The trip was certainly an adventure. My wife stayed home with the baby and I braved the event with our other three kids (ages 2, 4, and 6, for those you of keeping track at home.)
There were a
few minor several major obstacles, but we all had a great time and made it back in one piece. In that short evening, I found a ton of potential story ideas in all sorts of genres.
But to keep us all on the same track, let me give you a quick summary of the event. The hours of The Haunted Safari were only from 6:00-9:00 PM. We figured, “Cool, come in anytime after 6, and leave anytime before 9.”
Only it didn’t work out that way.
We got there promptly at 6:15. Not bad, considering we had to pack snacks, blankets, coats, more snacks, toys for the road, and some sort of nourishment that could pass as dinner (my first exercise in creativity of the night.) After showing our tickets to a very nice group of volunteers (volunteers I–regretfully–yelled at about an hour later) I drove into the parking lot and, for my second exercise in creativity, created a parking spot out of thin air.
After a quick glimpse at the massive hayrack line, I told the kids, “let’s do all the other stuff first, and the hayrack ride last.” They agreed and off we went. There was only one small problem: When I asked someone “Where is all the stuff?” the answer was that you have to ride the hackrack to all the stuff.
So we went and stood in line. That was when I found out that the previous night was canceled due to weather, so twice the amount of people were there. And in case I didn’t mention it, the line was crazy long. And also, in case I didn’t mention it, I drank a crazy amount of coffee on the ride up. I was practically dancing holding it in.
When I started chatting with the man in front of us about how long he’d been in line, how fast it’s moving, and how hard it will be for my two-year-old to wait this lo—oh crap! Where’s my two-year-old?? And yes, all three of them took off when I was distracted.
The people in line behind us were kind enough to hold our spot several times during that ninety minute (yes 90 minutes) stay in line for multiple bathroom breaks, a trip to go yell at the volunteers, and of course the rounding up of the kids. And I do hate yelling at people, but when you pay $23/person for a three-hour event and spend half of that time standing in line waiting to get in, you’ve earned the right to yell.
Anyhow, sorry for that long prologue. Eventually we got in an had a really fun time.
And back to writing, while we were there, I came up with a ton of writing ideas. Here are three of them:
What’s funnier than the crazy dad standing in line for an hour-and-a-half with three restless little kids who are tired, hungry, and need to go potty?
It’s hilarious, right? As long as it doesn’t happen to you.
Another idea came from someone else standing in line. As an empty hayrack was coming to pick up more people, the father of the family who held our place when we needed it tapped my six-year-old on the shoulder and said “Notice they aren’t bringing anybody back?”
Well, howdy, there. Obviously at the end of the hayrack ride lies either a portal to another dimension or a mad scientist with one large lab set up for human experimentation.
Horror (or Thriller)
While we were on the hayrack ride we saw about six giant elks only a few feet away. Just awesome. And I had a thought. What if a serial killer, or Bigfoot, or something popped out from behind them and started killing everybody? How would I protect the kids and get us out of there?
And wouldn’t that make a good story? Some horrific event happens and among the characters is a dad with three young kids.
So anyhow, at the end of the hayrack ride was a really big pumpkin patch-ish place, with a haunted forest walk, movies, food, games, a campfire, and all the other fun stuff you’d imagine. There was a lot of hilarity there too, as it was too dark to see and the kids all wanted to go in separate directions, but all-in-all, I’m happy I took the kids and maybe we’ll go back next year. If we do, we’ll certainly come a little more prepared for the entry line.
I got some fun writing ideas out of the trip. If you’ve come up with some good story ideas from any of your family outings, go ahead and share it in the comments!