The Genesis of an Idea

First of all, I’m a happy, happy, happy man. Most of that is due to the kind comments you all have left regarding my story Tastes Like Brains, as well as the 18 comments it has garnered on the contest site. In the comments, Diane asked me “Where do you get your ideas from?”. I thought that might be a fun topic to discuss, so here it is. Welcome to my madness.

I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from, though I can guess. A week or so ago, Jason mentioned he was having another contest and I immediately started to think what I would write about, just to think what type of story I wanted to write. I hadn’t seen the photograph yet, so I was just thinking in general terms. Then I thought of my most successful contest entry, the funny one about werewolves. People seemed to like that, I thought. What else could I write about?

The next thing I knew, the first line of the story popped into my head nearly as it appears in the final text:

What do you think brains taste like?” said Matthew, glancing over his shoulder. “I’d imagine they’re a bit salty.

That one cracked me up, though I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to fit it into a story. I’m not sure what I did at this point. I either wrote the line down on paper, or kept repeating it in my head until I could get to some paper. Eventually, I opened up notepad on the computer, typed up the line, and then saved it, just in case I could ever use it. Once I saw the photo Jason chose for the contest, I knew I could.

In the photograph, there is a tree. However, in the background you can a fence, similar to those you see on farms that are used to keep the cows from running off and doing naughty things. That gave me a bit more of my setting, and in my mind I could see our heroes (at this point named MaleCharacter1 and FemaleCharacter1) resting underneath the tree, overlooking the farmhouse.

At that point, I worked on a draft, which outlined the story without all the shiny details. I still wasn’t happy with it, and didn’t have my last couple lines. So, I went online and looked up baby names and found a few that were popular when the characters were born (late 1970’s). Shannon and Matthew. Good enough for me.

I didn’t finish this all in a day. I know I had some of the story written and took some time away from it to think. That’s when the ending of the story came to me, to have Matthew become a bit more serious about being caught and to have Shannon echo his line.

“Promise me if they get you first, you’ll be the one to eat my brain, not them.”

“Tastes like chicken, right?” said Shannon, forcing a smile as they ran once more.

Ah, this made me happy. I was soon on my way to completing the story, although now it was 270 or so words long. It took some effort to get it to 250 words, and I had to delete some details I would’ve liked to keep.

Anyhow, this is a look into how I wrote my little Zombie story. I’m glad you all enjoyed it. I hope this was interesting to you. Let me know if you have any other questions about my “process”.

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5 thoughts on “The Genesis of an Idea

  1. Interesting post.
    My ideas usually come while I’m asleep! I wake up in the morning with a more or less complete story in my head, all I do is tart around with the characters a bit and…hey presto!…another story is born. 😉

  2. I confess it took a while for me to figure out it was a zombie story, I was too intrigued about the brain eating.
    Horrid, isn’t it though having to cut down to 250 words – but it’s a brilliant exercising in keeping one’s language tight.
    Funny, I seldom think about my ideas in the way you describe, I “just write” and see what happens 🙂

  3. Fascinating! It must be very difficult to cut down words – much easier to pad it out.

    Intriguing reading how the three of you in the comments so far, all get your ideas in such different ways. Perhaps that is why I can’t write! I need rules and precision and order and measuring and those sorts of things – far too analytical, far too left brained. It’s a miracle I manage to do anything creative at all. 🙂

  4. I’ve written a few stories from a single opening line, as you did here. It’s interesting how just a glimpse of an opening can start your mind building.

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