Monday, January 3, 2011

Contest! Contest! Where do you get your leeches?

In September 2010, attendees of RMFW's Colorado Gold Conference were graced by the wisdom and humor of Connie Willis, science fiction writer extraordinaire.

After the conference I wanted more! While I’ve read most of Connie’s books, in reading about her life and career I found a number of quotes that made me laugh out loud. Here's one:

"When you're a writer, the question people always ask you is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Writers hate this question. It's like asking Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, "Where do you get your leeches?" You don't get ideas. Ideas get you." — Connie Willis

I paused to consider my own leeches. One adopted me while I was visiting relatives in rural Illinois. My sister and I stopped at a dilapidated roadside antique shop, and as we wandered through the clutter I found myself wondering what people would be collecting in a few hundred years. Probably not pink Depression glass. The day before, we’d been discussing the Town of Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guy Days. That’s when the theatric Headhunters leech bit me, a leech that eventually evolved into a screenplay co-written with Karen Albright Lin.

Then there was that morning when I woke up with what has to be the most exciting leech ever! How good was that leech? (Keep it clean!) A phrase, what I thought might eventually be a book title, had nipped at my toes for years, since hiking with my husband one frosty morning in Yellowstone. When I woke up that Saturday… BANG! I didn’t want to get out of bed. I’ve drafted over 40,000 words of that leech and love curling up with it, though it’s grown in scope and is occasionally a bit daunting to get my arms around.

So, where do you get your leeches? Or share a “Williscism” with us, how you respond when an awe-struck reader asks, “Where in the world do you get those (crazy) ideas?" Or share both!

Please post these in the comments before January 8, 2011 and on January 10, 2011 we'll share a selection of top leeches or “Williscisms” and (drum roll, please) we'll also announce our winner, the blue-ribbon leech.

The winner will receive a DVD of The African Queen!

Janet Fogg
(Aren't you glad I didn't include a picture of a leech?)

Void where prohibited
No purchase necessary to enter
Need not be present to win
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Paul Hansen said...

My leech "bit" while walking on a beach in CA. It kept nipping for 8 yrs before I finally started writing a trilogy on ET-human interaction. 3 MSS later it's still biting! The leech? "DO YOU REALLY WANT TO LEARN TO FLY (a UFO)?" (I'm a long time pilot.) Who could resist?

Patricia Stoltey said...

I know I'm not eligible to win since I'm a contributor, but I had to share that I had my second big story idea from a dream just last week.

However, I don't want to dwell on the fact that leeches creep up on me when I'm sleeping.

Beth Groundwater said...

My answer to the "Where do you get your ideas?" question is "They sneak up on me and say BOO!"

I'm a firm believer in the power of the unconscious brain to work on problem-solving and idea-generation while you sleep, and most of my good ideas appear in the morning. So my first advice to those pursuing the creative arts is to get lots of sleep!

Mark Adair said...

I have 2 leech origin answers.

The first one I share freely in interviews: One night after many stressful days developing software I couldn't wind down. So I grabbed my laptop and headed to bed, I sat there staring at the screen for 20 minutes or so. The next thing I know this guy pops into my head…bright, introverted, and sensitive, tormented by a past that he didn’t orchestrate and a future he couldn’t control. His name was John Truman. I sort of followed him around for a few weeks. Through him I met Paul, and then Susan, the love of his life. One day it came to me, the source of John’s struggle, why he grew into the person I had come to know. He was part of the New Dawn, a secret, Oxford-based society; he just didn’t know it yet. (The Father's Child)

The second answer I've never divulged until now: I keep an ancient story-teller in the basement. Whenever I need a new idea, I trade him 2 episodes of The Office. He just can't get enough of Michael Scott.

Mary Ricksen said...

If I am lucky they bite me!
Never know when, where, or why, they just jump up and bite my brain. These are brain leeches. A special variety, they go in through any available opening and head straight for the brain. their bite releases chemicals in the brain that make me hallucinate stories. So there you go. Luckily I decided to write down my hallucinations and that's how I get my ideas... Happy New Year and many leeches in the future!

Anonymous said...

Karen Albright Lin says:

My novels have been inspired by true family experiences, work in a crisis center, a successful short story I wrote. Screenplays inspired by: my son's experience with the paranormal, Janet's tale above, a magazine article about the Three Gorges Dam, a dream, a radio talk show's guest, and a friend's description of menopause, a producer's need for a script for Cameron Diaz and Jim Carrey, a common saying, a fascinating tradition in China I discovered while there. Karen Albright Lin

j. a. kazimer said...

Where in the world do you get those (crazy) ideas?

~ "The voices, of course." I tilt my head and frown. "Shhh!!! Did you hear that?"

Cara Lopez Lee said...

My Mexican-Chinese grandmother has been doling out her family history to me in bits and pieces for my entire life - a story that leads back to South China and Old El Paso, revolutions and bootlegging, despotic community leaders & smuggled immigrants, rapists and child brides. These fascinating little leeches have been sucking the life out of me for years, so I've had to start turning them into my first novel, or I'll never be able to move on to the second one in peace - another leech waiting in line.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Connie's correct--ideas get me. I can't stop them buzzing around in my head. LOL No wonder I often get headaches.

Shannon said...

My "leeches" are three perfectly lovely ladies. When I told them of an interesting article I'd read, one looked at me and said, "When are you going to write that book?" It became my first published novel. I recently sat down with these same 3 leeches for a two-day retreat and voila! they inspired yet another plot. Thanks, leeches, you know who you are!

N. R. Williams said...

LOL Janet. My ideas spring upon me at the most inopportune moments making me appear to be a dizzy blonde. Blonde I am, but dizzy? How's that, I included both?
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Clarissa Draper said...

Here's where I get my ideas:
(a) dreams
(b) while watching movies (I always think I could make the story better)
(c) talking to myself (I always start my conversations with myself with "What if...")

steven said...

I clone my own leeches in a lab I set up in my basement. Five years ago I started with one African Fire Leech (known by its distinctive red markings), but since then I've managed to incorporated genetic material from a number of compatible species. I pay for this activity by selling some of my crop to neighborhood kids (mostly boys, of course) to be used as pets or in practical jokes.

Marian Allen said...

My leeches appear out of the unlikeliest places. One came from a photograph of Salvador Dali and his entourage. One came from a Victorian poem. One came from Star Trek. One came from asking my Facebook friends what I should write about. The answers were: "donkeys versus zombies", "the lost colony of Roanoke" and "last night I dreamed a canary ate a dog". I enjoyed that one.

Marian Allen

Jan Morrison said...

The truth? Often my leeches come to me when I overhear bits of conversations. They get me thinking what if? and then I'm off. One was when I heard an artist I know at an art gallery opening saying that she used to be a rock walker at Peggy's Cove, reminding folks to stay away from the trecherous edges of the rocks and that it gave her time out in the beautiful area to plan paintings. My novel The Rock Walker was born in that moment! Another was because my ex-husband suffered a brain injury a few years ago (long after we were apart) and it got me wondering what it would be like to be in a relationship with a man who had a different mind than he'd had when we'd married. True was created.

If someone asks me that question though I answer 'Oh, I pay an idea service to mail them to me - I get one idea a week in the mail - it's great! Want their number?' That usually does the trick.

P.L. Parker said...

I love ancient history and I watch the Discovery Channel frequently. Ideas for two of my books came from that source and then as I'm relaxing in the bathtub, the ideas start to fly.

RhondaWriter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RhondaWriter said...

My favorite leeches: grade-school children who attend my writing classes! Their thoughts and ideas are fresh and fun and I learn from them every time!

I've taught over 6,000 children in groups of 30 to 300 (most with special needs). Some of the delightful little leeches that I taught back in 2004 are still hanging on - many now with stories of their very own!