Last year at Comicpalooza 2013, I debuted a panel/workshop idea that I’d had for some time. From comments made by con-goers, organizers, and others, I found out later that it was a very popular panel, and many more wish they had attended. So this year, I’ve decided to expand the panel into a full workshop, with the help of some friends and fellow authors. The panel runs from 10AM to 12PM (Noon) on Sunday, May 25th at Comicpalooza. Find out all the details on my CP2014 post.

The Idea

Most writers, I think, would agree that one of the questions we get most often is the ubiquitous “Where do you get your ideas?” – and it’s also one of the ones we really hate the most. The reason for that is quite simple: we don’t know. I’d say great than 90% of the writers I’ve talked to said their ideas come to them completely out of the blue. Usually while doing some completely mundane task, like washing dishes, or the laundry, driving the kids to school, or any of a half a hundred other places. In general, the idea just springs into our minds, either mostly- or fully-formed (the latter much rarer than the former).

Coming Up With Another Idea

So say you get one really good idea for a story, or song, or TV show, or what have you. Is that it? Is there only one per person? The answer is an emphatic NO. I can vouch for this personally, as I have over 130 ideas for novel-length stories right now, and who’s to say how many more I’ll come up with? But the problem is, if we don’t know where the ideas come from in the first place, how can we generate more of them? Is there a way to get another idea, or another five, or five hundred?

This time, the answer is an emphatic YES.

Imagination as a Practicable Skill

When you first learned to ride a bike – and I’m assuming you’ve picked up that particular life skill – did you ride it perfectly the first time? Chances are no, you fell more often than you rode. But eventually, you were able to get on the bike and ride without a second thought. Why? Practice. You rode, and rode, and rode, until you got it right. Finding ideas can work the exact same way. The more you practice, the more you’ll get better at it, and find yourself generating completely different ideas at the drop of a hat… maybe even more than you can handle!

Demonstrating Idea Generation

So how do you teach this in a two-hour workshop? Our panelists will demonstrate their ability to generate a story on the fly, then guide breakout groups through the same process. Using randomly-selected items from the audience, our panelists will each have a few moments to come up with a unique and interesting plot about the items chosen by the audience. We’ll talk about these ideas briefly, and how our panelists came up with their notions, then we’ll break up into groups to work on a similar project. Each team will have 30 minutes or so to take a random object from their team and construct a sound story with the help of our panelists.

Once all the teams have completed their stories, each panelist will read out his or her team’s synopsis, and the audience will vote on the winner. Since the workshop’s being sponsored by Grey Gecko Press, we’ll also have some prizes to give away, including free signed books! This is not a panel you want to miss!

Stay tuned for more on this workshop and for ways you can learn to practice this skill yourself. It’s one of my favorite panels to talk about and to run. Remember, 10a-12p Sunday at Comicpalooza – see you there!

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