Writing Ideas; Where Do They Come From?

I was recently asked by a writer how to get an idea for his next book. I tried to help. It wasn’t easy.


An idea is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of writing. It is the springboard. It is the rocket ship. It is rarely shared, and the reason is understandable. The creativity the author offers readers comes from him or herself. If it is another’s idea, where is the creativity, the font of inspiration? I remember a TV interview with Steven King years ago when he was asked where his ideas come from. You could see him biting his tongue. His answer was little more than a shrug. On a similar note, pun intended, the great lyricist Johnny Mercer (Moon River and scores of other popular songs) was asked by his father where his ideas came from. JM didn’t know. He said he just tried to achieve peace of mind and let the universe speak to him. Or something like that.


So where do ideas come from? There are as many answers as there are novels. I can cite several recent examples. My novel Waters of Oblivion came from a single statement in an editorial by a ranking Navy officer complaining about the dangers of overcrowded radio wave frequencies and the danger of their use for military data transfer. It was printed in a service magazine; a few words only, not a feature with photographs. Though I read the entire issue, that one line stuck with me. I began researching the topic and found that using light waves for communications was an idea that pre-dated Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. This subject, high-intensity laser beams, became the theme of my novel. This theme was recently awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics.


My newest novel, Wave, was in truth an idea given to me, unsolicited, during a reading with one of America’s leading astrologers in 2017. She told me I should write something about outer space. I’d never even read science fiction, much less written it, but what a challenge. Now, not to contradict myself, but this was an idea for a genre, not an idea for a theme, and ‘outer space’ covers a lot of territory. The subject matter I chose came from a single edition of the magazine Astronomy, gravitational waves. This subject won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics.


Another of my novels, Biohazard Level 4: New Orleans, came from the news. Remember the fear of mosquito-carried viruses a few years back? The book’s theme, genetic mutation and the gene editor CRISPR Cas-9, which I had never heard of when I began the book, has not won the Nobel yet, but it is definitely a contender, and has won almost equally prestigious international awards. My novel Jazz Age Rondo, historical fiction, was inspired by my great-grandparents, European circus performers who were touring San Francisco at the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire. If one can’t find something to write about with the last century, its global wars, its artistic and scientific achievements etc., well, maybe writing fiction is not for you.


And one more, Riding Guts ‘n’ Glory, was inspired by my late son’s involvement with professional bull riding. It is one of the most touching father/son tales you will ever read.


We all have family and friends, and often they are a source of inspiration. So are daily events. So is the life you have lead and experienced so far. I could go on, but I’m trying to say ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. But most importantly, they come from the author. I wish you the best of luck with your writing. The ideas will come.

About David Lyons Author

Author, Novelist, Writer, Speaker for Thriller Series Featuring New Orleans Cajun Federal Judge Jock Boucher in a series: Ice Fire, Blood Game, Waters of Oblivion, BioHazard Level IV. Visit his website to see other books he's written.
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