Monday, December 14, 2009

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

It's a classic question. It is also completely impossible to answer without sounding snarky. I mean, what do you say? I could act like mom's did in the old days when they didn't want to talk about sex and say "they come from the cabbage patch" or "the stork delivers them" but that's not really true. I think. Not for me anyway.

For example, last night I had an idea. Out of the blue apparently (no stork seen). A woman wakes up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere in front of a roaring fire. Looking around she sees the entire place is filled (and I do mean filled) with stuff about time travel. Everything has to do with time travel, from the movies on disc (Time After Time, The Time Traveller's Wife, Back to the Future I, II, and III, etc.), to the books filling the shelves (A Wrinkle in Time, The Butterfly Effect, etc.).

Now, the questions start. Is she an angel? An amnesia victim? A time traveller sent back to stop our obsessive-compulsive cabin owner from actually building a time machine?

Next snapshot in my head. Our girl is now in the cabin with 3 other people. (Don't know when or how they got there. This came in the a.m., post dream). She is trying to explain the concepts of time in a method our three collaborators (Professor, one male and one female student) is going to understand.

(Now this goes into a lecture that is liable to bore the pants off of you if you're not careful, so tighten your belt, or go to a location where pantslessness will not cause you trouble such as job loss or arrest for indecent exposure---you've been warned).

"You're thinking time is linear. It is, and it isn't. The problem is the human brain is wired to think in three dimensions. You need at least five to really grasp the concept." She takes a balloon out of her pocket and blows it up, or grabs an orange, and grabs a magic marker. "First, it's spherical." She presses the pen to the surface and marks a spot. Nodding to the male student. "This is you. You've just graduated high school. You have to make a choice. Do you" she moves the pen a short distance to make a line "go directly to college and onward?" She goes back to the first spot, and moves the pen in a different direction "OR do you skip a year, go with your girlfriend on a trip of exploration."

"This is your girlfriend." Back to the original spot. "She has a similar choice." The pen follows the trip path, then stops. "Now she has a choice. Does she resist temptation, knowing that if she stays with you, you will be the only man she ever sleeps with. Or does she give in, knowing that if you find out she'll lose you entirely?" The pen goes to his spot. She draws his line away from the trip path over to the college path, leaving the second line behind. (The assumption being that the girl cheated.)

"But it's not that simple. Because the surface isn't flat. There are hills and valleys. Just like you move more slowly climbing up a snowy hill than sliding down on your sled. And then there's emotion. Emotion is energy. Concentrated together, it can be like the wind at your back, or in your face. And it affects everything.

"She looks around to see if they're following. They are . . . sort of. Not like they believe her, but they're trying, so she continues. "There's a motivational speaker who says that emotions are nothing more than electrical storms in the brain. Electricity is energy . . . it's power. Concentrated in enough strength it can be deadly."

She grabs one end of the baloon, pulling it tight so that the rubber is thicker on one end than another. "Have you ever had a day at work that seemed to drag on forever? It just wouldn't end." They nod. "Part of that is your emotion. You're bored. You're tired. You stayed up drinking the night before so you're a little hungover. But part of it isn't. Part of it is that in Brazil there are 100,000 screaming fans wound up to fever pitch as the soccer game goes into overtime, and another 100,000 are in Europe in 2002 waiting for the first concert of the reunion tour of one of the greatest bands of all time; and an entire country in 1964 is mourning a president who was shot down in the prime of his life. All that emotional energy is pulling time, affecting it in different ways, distoring how it is perceived."

She sighs. They're not getting it. Which means it's pointless trying to explain how time works differently in space. Not in a space craft --- with its artificial atmosphere and human imposed emotional sequence. But in space itself. Where light and sound exist on their own with little input from humans or other sentient species.

"So you're saying time travel is possible?" The girl asks.

"I'm saying trying it is stupid. A really, REALLY bad idea." She sets down the balloon and walks into the kitchen area. They follow. "There's too much happening. Too many ways it can go wrong. Just here, in this remote spot, there is us, having this conversation. There is a prospector, on his way to California for the gold rush. There is a cave man being killed by a bear. MAYBE you could get lucky." She pulls a glass from the shelf and fills it close to the rim with water before setting it on the counter. She then fills her cupped hand with water and dumps it into the glass. The water level rises to the very rim. "And nothing bad happens. Then again . . ." she fills her cupped hand again, and dumps it into the glass, which overflows onto the counter, making a mess, "maybe not." She turns to them. "One person can make a difference sometimes. She begins quoting Martin Luther King . . . 'I have a dream,'" she pauses, then starts singing, 'Don't cry for me Argentina, the truth is I never left you."


Okay, that's where it left off. Now where did it come from? Haven't a clue. I had been sitting in front of the fire eating dinner, so maybe the fire is from that. But the whole space-time continuum and emotion as energy distorting things? I dunno. I mean it. WTH?

I have an odd mind. I'll admit that. But this stuff is a bit out there for me. Probably too dry to use for a story too. But it was there, in my head. And it played out like a movie. And I do find it a bit interesting.

Where do I get my ideas? I dunno. Sometimes something inspires me. A lot of times they spring into my head fully formed, or make themselves known through dreams. Sometimes they're useful. Sometimes they're not. But I try to let them have their way, because even if they're not useful they deserve time and attention.

Besides, just because something isn't workable now doesn't mean it won't be later on, in a different context.

1 comment:

Cassidy McKay said...

Oh boy, where do I get my ideas from? Where don't I? It could be a line from a song on the radio, a picture in a magazine, a funny line a child spouts. Mine come from everywhere.

Many times, a story title will pop into my head, and the story flows from that. My kids all know to keep a pen handy when Mom is driving, because they could be writing ideas or titles on pizza boxes in the car!