Research

GMTA

GMTA is ‘Netspeak for “Great Minds Think Alike.” There are umpteen great minds recognized on the ‘Net. Many of these GMs are not writers and can sometimes give us a story idea we might not think of.

Robert Oppenheimer, for example, once answered a student at Rochester University who asked whether the bomb exploded at Alamogordo was the first one to be detonated, “Well — yes. In modern times, of course.” How can a sci-fi writer not wonder about that other detonation? There is a story here!

Or if you prefer to write fantasy, try thinking, “Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real.” -Tupac Shakur.

A fight scene might benefit by holding in mind the thought, “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” -Creighton W. Abrams, Battle of the Bulge.

Need a cast of characters? Start with, “A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.” -Charlie Chaplin

Sometimes, a good idea is right in front of you. “I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called Mother and Child Reunion. It’s chicken and eggs. And I said, I gotta use that one.” -Paul Simon

And here’s an idea for a short horror story. “Sometimes when you’re burying a guy alive, for a moment or two you start feeling sorry for him. And then it passes and you keep on shoveling.” – George Carlin.

Where do your story ideas come from?

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26 thoughts on “GMTA

  1. Perry Palin says:

    GD,

    A good question. Here are a few of my ideas.

    I spend a lot of time out-of-doors, and my writing prompts include things I experience out-of-doors. But more important than finding a fresh wolf track on the riverbank is how I feel about finding the track, and imagining the motivation and the behavior of the wolf when she passed by.

    Domestic stock provide writing prompts. I have two mares who are comediennes. For comic relief, you can’t beat free range laying hens.

    I get ideas from people. A friend living in a neighboring town was, 50 years ago and 150 miles away, a high school classmate of mine. She might have been a high school sweetheart, if I had played my cards differently, and if she let me. Teenage exchanges between her and me, all these years later, find their way into experiences between characters in my stories,

    I grew up with storytellers who are not writers. Their oral representations, fictionalized, inform my stories.

    A couple of years ago a little boy was missing from his home. I was one of hundreds who answered the call to look for the boy. As a story prompt the facts are less important than the emotions of the crowd who walked the cornfields and the woods.

    I was flattered last week when members of the writers’ group believed my reading was autobiographical. It was not, but I liked hearing that the story was real for them. What made it seem real was the motivation and emotion of the characters.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ah, the question that makes professional writers so uncomfortable!

    Let’s listen to some answers from The Greats.
    ……………………

    Harlan Ellison: “Schenectady.”

    Stephen King: “I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.”

    Ray Bradbury: “People ask, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ Well, right here. [Speaking from his writer’s den cluttered with all manner of memorabilia, models, posters, books, loose papers, folders, statues, etc.] All this is my Martian landscape. Somewhere in this room is an African veldt. Just beyond perhaps is a small Illinois town where I grew up. I’m surrounded on every side by my magician’s toy shop. I’ll never starve here. I just look around, find what I need, and begin. I’m Ray Bradbury, and this is… The Ray Bradbury Theater. Well then, right now, what shall it be? Out of all this, what do I choose to make a story? I never know where the next one will take me. And the trip? Exactly one-half imagination, exactly one-half terror.”

    Isaac Asimov: “By thinking and thinking and thinking till I’m ready to kill myself.”

    Kurt Vonnegut: “Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everybody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden stuff came gushing out. It was disgust with civilization.”
    …………………….

    Now I’ll answer. (Definitely not a Great! Nevertheless I keep scritch-scribblin’ away. . . .)

    Carl E. Reed: “Metacognition. Simple as that, a one-word answer: awareness of self. To elaborate: watching my own thoughts, so that when my brain puts ideas, passing fancies, dream fragments and/or unexpected epiphanies together in new and startling ways I say to myself: ‘Hey, that’s good. I should write that down.’ So I do. Because if I don’t—gone! The next day: ‘What was that idea/revelation/story insight I had yesterday about . . . something . . . someone . . . somewhere . . . ?'”

    Liked by 4 people

  3. GD Deckard says:

    LOL Perry! I imagine that, along with watching free range laying hens for comic relief, would be watching boneless chickens walk.

    heh, Mimi 🙂 I strongly suspect that many of your ideas come from your own characters.

    Thanks for the details Carl, I’d already narrowed down the source of your unique ideas to… 🙂 you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    I get most of my ideas from asking, what would Sly do? He dominates my thinking, I can’t escape him.

    Thanks, GD. I have deleted my survey, for now. I haven’t gotten my point across. I’ve been trying to be cute. It hasn’t worked. I may just say to hell with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    Hmmm. You all know those recommendations at the front of a book. Short quips is what I’m after, to fill that role in my ebook. I promise to display my anti-recommendations on page one, kind of what Lemony Snicket (whom I admire, in spite of the fact that his Netflix series looks like it may turn out to be a dud) would do. I’ve watched one-and-a-half episodes. I’ll watch them all, read the books, and comment here.

    Hey, some books have a Q & A section in the rear, questions, mostly in middle-school books, are posed, the author answers. There’s a familiar format to the thing. I will now start to think about that. A promising idea, I say. I wonder why Lemony didn’t think of that.

    Maybe he did, I don’t have the books in hand yet. I ordered them on Friday.

    Liked by 3 people

    • @Mimi: Sly is your passion and your mouthpiece; we all get that. Do what you think is best, writing-wise. (Personally, I’d like to see you try out some different material alongside the Sly stuff. Do you have the time for this, however? Or the inclination? & BTW: I gave you a great dust-jacket blurb/affirmation for Sly! the other day in a different thread on this site.)

      PS. As far as editing someone else’s words: Danger, Will Robinson! Or–that’s where trust comes in. Keeping this group small and manageable is a resounding plus as far as I’m concerned. Think of the damage some reckless punk could cause to us all with a few malicious edits!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    Carl, I have often thought about trying a noir thing.

    I had a thriller plotted out thirty years ago. A super-insecure black-belt owner of an escort service, who longed to be an action star in Hollywood. A midget who hung out in the Combat Zone bars grousing about how he wanted to be a police office but couldn’t be because of his height. An heiress working as a stripper, from rebellion. A break-in of safe deposit boxes in a favorite mob bank Medford, MA over a long Labor Day weekend. (This happened, I read it in the news.)

    I knew some odd characters in Boston. I jotted down priceless dialogue, long gone. I wonder if I can recreate it.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. mimispeike says:

    The touts on the first page(s) of many a book, from name authors/professional reviews, that are often so entertaining, I would like to replicate a trad-published book, and make a joke of it. That’s the only way for us self-pubs to do it, and have some credibility. I would do the same with a cover flap and a back cover, a total put-on package.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. atthysgage says:

    These are great, GD. Far more inspiring than the usual writing prompts various websites are always touting. For me, the need for inspiration isn’t a matter of looking for story ideas (which are not in short supply) but to motivate me to actually dig in and do the grunt work of getting the story on the page.

    I’m not sure if I agree with your categories though. The Tupac Shakur quote seems more like a horror story to me, while the Paul Simon idea brays out “science fiction!” But to each his own.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. GD Deckard says:

    Thanks, Atthys. That idiom, “to each his own,” expresses the feeling one gets from reading through the posts on this site. Here it’s, “to each his own, with respect and good will.” This is a happy place to hang out with other writers.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mimispeike says:

    Q: Where do your story ideas come from?

    A: My story ideas come to me in many ways from many sources. I have talked about this in my post ‘I Am The Walrus’, which I don’t think anyone has noticed. It landed in an odd spot, out of order, probably because I deleted it, then put it back.

    I won’t do that again.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mimispeike says:

    In Boston’s Combat Zone, forty years ago, I knew strippers, prostitutes, bartenders, doormen. I hung out with many oddballs, in dressing rooms, at the after-hours clubs, here, there.

    I’ll try to call those zanies back up, then figure out what to do with them. My entry in the next competition will most likely be color, no real story, a start on something that Sly has no chance to butt into.

    That’s right. No Sly this time.

    I’ll try.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. GD Deckard says:

    I once lived in a house of great repute, as the establishment’s official photographer. Even had my own room there. One morning, I was awakened by three guys shaking my bed. The owner and his chief pimp were grinning down at me. Their goon was pointing out the second story window. “Look!” they said. “It is yours!” I looked. A new Lincoln Continental was sitting in the street below. Someone put an arm around me. The owner, I knew, because I saw the tattoos on his knuckles.

    There were only two things to say. “Why?” After a bit of obfuscation, it became clear they wanted to register the car in my name and occasionally borrow it for a job. “No.”

    They weren’t angry, just amused. They left talking about someone else they knew who would jump at the offer and sent two girls up to console me for my loss.

    There’s a story there.

    So, Luck to Ye Mimi! Deeply personal stories are the hardest to write. But I sometimes think that’s where our best stories are.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mimispeike says:

      I will try to create a character based on the girl I knew best, having lived with her for several years, and having watched her begin to strip at the Two O’Clock Lounge, get a way-too-large bust job, advance to headliner, ultimately snag a founding partner in Bain & Company (the company that gave birth to Bain Capital of Mitt Romney fame), and move on to a higher plane of existence.

      She was the small-town Italian girl from RI (shades of Goodbye, Columbus), determined to reinvent herself. How she, a one-semester drop out from a business college in Providence, how she fit in with that Ivy League MBA crowd, I’ll have to make that up. (I can entertainingly imagine.)

      The owner of the Two O’Clock tried to clean up his image. He hired a PR woman, a fast-talker who had been fired from a previous job for embezzlement, who set my friend, who billed herself at one point as The Girl Next Door, set her up with several media encounters. (She got a cover story with that title on the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine, long about 1975.) I’m sure she thought it would take her career to new heights. Her family in RI opened their Sunday Globe one fine summer morning and went into shock. But the amount of money she ultimately hooked up with cooled her heating-oil-business father’s outrage fairly quickly.

      She got put into a local TV station interview on how the Combat Zone was not the hell-hole it was thought to be. She was unable to answer the fairly softball questions. She smiled and looked down a lot, and the interviewer had to fill in the answers. How she held her own in the chi-chi cocktail parties of her boyfriend’s circle (they were soon living together) is anyone’s guess. I was no longer on hand to hear/ observe the gory details. I didn’t fit into her life any longer.

      Stories, I got ’em. I have no problem with ideas for stories. Or, at least, the characters to populate them.

      This feels to me like a situation in which I have to come up with a real plot. Cripe!

      Liked by 1 person

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