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Forsgren: Always keep a lookout for writing inspiration

The Art of Nerding Out

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As many writers know, sometimes the hardest part of the job is coming up with an idea that you like. That’s why it’s really important to always keep an eye and your mind open, because sometimes inspiration can pop up in the most unexpected places.

One of the places I’ve found to be quite fruitful for drawing ideas from is conversations with friends. For example, it was on a late-night drive home from a long day of hunting for “Star Wars” collectibles that I created two of my favorite characters, Joe and Earl. Conceived as profanity-spewing hip-hop fans, I turned them into metalheads, since I know very little about hip hop and love metal music.

Joe and Earl have served as the basis for a comic book story that I wrote. It wound up being illustrated by a friend of mine, so I have a comic book that I wrote sitting on the same bookshelf that holds all my Marvel and DC graphic novels.

Startup Stock Photos

I also have an idea for a feature length screenplay featuring Joe and Earl. It would be the closest thing to a zombie story that I would ever write. Whether that ever comes to fruition or not, Joe and Earl are two of my own creations that have been a lot of fun to build stories around. And they’ve also given me a lot of entertainment.

Another place that I have pulled a lot of ideas for stories from is my dreams. I have some pretty crazy dreams, and I have pulled a lot of story ideas out of stuff that I see in my sleep. My second novel started off based on a dream I had where I was a guy who planned funerals for the dead pets of celebrities. From that, I constructed a story about a guy who gets to take a road trip with an alien. It was kind of like my version of “E.T.”

In the dream, I was at work and God tore the roof off and began flinging flaming guitars at me.

flaming guitar

Another dream that led to a story element came to me when I was working at Deseret Industries a few years ago. In the dream, I was at work and God tore the roof off and began flinging flaming guitars at me. I ended up transcribing that dream into a whole chapter in the last novel I wrote. Dreams are so good for finding ideas to write about, if you can remember them.

One last place I want to bring up is the work of others. I had a writing instructor who told us wanna-be writers to “remember where you see something you like so you can go back and rip it off later.” I have done plenty of “borrowing” from my fellow writers, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I mean, I have a really hard time believing Suzanne Collins never read “Battle Royale” before she wrote “The Hunger Games”. And one of my all-time favorite novels, “Ready Player One”, is basically a huge pastiche of references to the author’s favorite movies, music, TV shows and video games.

I have pulled scenes from “Star Wars,” “Fight Club” and “Blade Runner” and crafted my own versions of them. I’ve borrowed bits of dialogue from movies and TV shows I love and used them to give my own characters personality. Heck, one of my favorite things I’ve ever written was my mutated take on the mall chase scene from “The Blues Brothers.” The one drawback to drawing from this source: unoriginality. And the possibility of litigation if you get lazy and plagiarize.

A wiser person than myself once said, “Ideas are few and far between, and good ideas are rarer still.” Finding an idea you want to spend enough time to bring to completion can take a long time. But if you keep an open mind (and eyes and ears), you’re much more likely find an idea that sparks your imagination. And once you have that spark, the sky’s the limit!