the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Tag: ideas

Finding New Ideas

by MDY

“How do you come up with your stories?” my reader asked me.

The simple answer is, I do not know. The premises of my stories are easy enough to concoct: take things most people would never think to connect (like robbers and ramen, or hawks and handsaws), and connect them. Sometimes, I draw on experience – things I’ve heard, things I’ve seen. I tend not to do this too often because I find that the closer you stray towards real life, the less latitude you have to mould it into your own. The workability of a premise depends on the strength, and plausibility, of those connections: in other words, developing scenes and scenarios which are weird¬†for a reason¬†and not just for weirdness’ sake. Otherwise you end up on the slippery slope of surrealism, which is very slippery and always leads back to the sea.

Even once you have your premise, new ideas are only one very small part of writing stories of which you can be proud. You also need discipline (to write words and then words and then, after that, more words), and humility (to accept when your premise is in fact too weak, and cannot be saved, and must die), and empathy (to birth characters who are strong, and will survive for the term of your natural life). You need a love of the worlds both around and inside you. Most of all, I think, you need to understand your reader, which is not a goal but rather a choice that you have to make every day. My reader is both why and whom I’m writing for.

But even after all of that, I still do not really know.


Writing from experience

by MDY

They say write what you know. When I first started with short stories, I used to structure them around swathes of luxurious dialogue in which my characters would ponder the quandaries of war, God, and double dates. These weren’t very good, because I didn’t actually know how to talk a lot. So I moved on to writing stories where the characters wouldn’t speak at all, and those were better. Then I began writing in the first person because I do a lot of thinking, but without any increase in dialogue because I still don’t like talking. The only person I feel truly comfortable talking to is myself. Blogs are surprisingly well-suited for interior monologue.

They say write what you don’t know. When I was in high school, all my protagonists were intellectual-leaning teenage boys who were sweet on unattainably beautiful women and would often partake in swathes of luxurious dialogue about war, God, and double dates. But that was boring, so I moved on to cybernetic assassins, telepathic trees, and little girls who wanted to be chefs. For a long time all my protagonists were male, until I realised my understanding of men was about as poor as that of (invariably unattainably beautiful) women. So I started writing about animals. Sometimes knowing is half the battle, but it may not be the winning side.

I say write what you want to know. My illustrator wants to know more about learning to teach, and teaching to learn. One of my friends writes about God, and fashion, because she wants to understand both better (though her allegiances, like mine, fall squarely on one side). I write about writing. Words are thoughts, made close-to-real. They give us something to hold onto, and something to build from. You don’t have to know what you write, but it helps knowing what you’re writing for.