Where Do Ideas Come From?

A lot of writers get asked where do your ideas come from.  The answer for most of us is, I don't know.

I've developed a number of current and potential independent comics ideas, and so far, all of them have been either science fiction, horror, or some form of fantasy/fairy tale.  I had yet to come up with an independent super hero-related idea, and it's something I'd been wanting to do for some time.  Many times I'd told myself I really needed one, just to see what I could come up with.  Mark Millar has done multiple independent series such as Kick Ass, Nemesis, and Superior, Brian Michael Bendis has Jinx and Alias, and Ed Brubaker is writing the independent Incognito.  But every time I purposely tried to come up with something, nothing would come.

Today I decided to try again.  And today the idea struck.  I don't want to go into too much detail on the series, but it's called Re-Do.  The idea came so fast and so completely that I surprised myself.  I sometimes get ideas that formulate over a period of time, but this one seemed to spring fully grown right from inception. 

I can say the idea came as a result of a technique I learned at writer's conferences.  I was told that one thing that helps when pitching agents or editors is to pitch your story using a what if scenario.  For instance - what if a woman and her son are trapped in a locked car on a hot summer day by a rabid dog (this is the premise of Stephen King's Cujo)?  Or, what if humanity's only hope against an invading alien species lies in the training and command of a fleet by a small child (Ender's Game)?  Or my second novel, Honor, what if a cadet at the Air Force Academy discovers a terrorist plot big enough to kill tens of thousands and he's the only one who can stop it? 

Oh, all right, I'll tell you the premise I came up with for Re-Do, but I don't want to go into too much detail since there's other juicy parts that came to mind that are best discovered when it's released someday.  The what if for Re-Do - what if the world's only superhero, aged and on his deathbed, is given a chance to go back and re-do his life, remembering everything that ever happened in his past (every fight, every decision, every choice)?  As he reaches key moments and decisions in his life, he'll remember his past and how those events occured (similar to flashbacks in Lost) and we'll see how, if at all, he does things differently as well as the consequences. 

I loved the idea instantly and thought it's something I've personally never seen done.  Yes, many heroes become unstuck in time, and they've even been forced to re-live their own past (look at Ed Brubaker's recent Captain America Reborn).  But as far as I know, these characters have not consciously been able to alter their past and reflect on choices they made and how it could all change.

Maybe the idea sprang from recent thoughts I've been having about how I can never re-live my own past.  My time growing up in Kentucky in the 1970s and 1980s only resides in memory, as much as I would love to experience it again.  To see it through the eyes of today. 

So that's how this one came for me.  Every idea is different, and the way I come about them is unique.  But given enough time, the ideas do come.  It's my favorite part really, more than the actual writing.  I love being an idea generator, and sitting down to put it to paper is the laborsome part to me.  Paraphrasing Peter De Vries, I love to write, but I hate the paperwork.  I just wish writing wasn't so much paperwork.