Posted by: oneyearbook | March 15, 2009

Idea bank

Neil Gaiman gives a nice answer to the big question (“Where do your ideas come from?”), here. He is right to say that ideas are not the hard bit. Ideas are everywhere and in everything and float by all the time. If I had a novel to show for every good idea I’d ever had, I’d be publishing at Danielle Steele-esque levels of productivity. (He’s also right to say that every profession has that one specific thing that other people want to ask when they hear that you’re employed as a doctor, lawyer, writer, whatever. When I used to work in the theatre industry, whenever we had Q+A nights with the cast, invariably one of the first questions would always be “Is it hard to memorize all those lines?”)

So, yeah, the idea for this novel; I didn’t just go get it on loan from the idea bank, obviously, and while I did, as he says, make it up, out of my head, the real answer is that I can’t quite remember where it came from. In this iteration, as a novel, it came from my need to expand a short story I wrote almost a decade ago. I’d been going back to the story, not happy with it, for a long time; I knew the idea was good but the results weren’t. Finally I realized that the idea was a touch bigger than a short story could handle, and started mapping out how it would look if it was larger. An outline, clearly novel-sized, was the quick result.

But, looking back at my self in my late teens, I can’t remember coming up with the idea or how it came to be, if there was a eureka moment or not. (Which is kind of funny, because the book is about the uncertainty of memory, of looking back and not being able to tell if what we remember is the truth, somewhat embellished, or entirely altered.) I did work for a while, first as a volunteer and then as an employee, at a museum very similar to the one that features in the book, and the exhibit that sets off the narrator’s quest for the truth of the past exists, pretty much, at that museum. Clearly I was inspired by my work there. But other than that it’s lost to time, which doesn’t make for a very interesting story, in the end.

Maybe I’ll make a few alterations to my memories and come up with something better by the time I’m done the thing and facing that question.



  1. […] Idea bank « One Year, One Book […]

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