I was at a NaNoWriMo write-in last Monday (this is when several nutty people get together for multiple hours and sit with laptops pounding out chunks of their novels - the idea being that having others around you working helps make you more productive) and had an interesting experience. The write-in was at the loft of the Flying Pig Bookstore here in Vermont. We had a few people there, working away, and suddenly heard strange, tinny voices from the hallway. Elizabeth, the bookstore's owner, explained that was a water-machine that belonged to the health spa also working in the building. Then the woman getting herself water, who overheard us talking, came in and gave further explanation, talking about the importance of water being alkaline, ionized, and all this other stuff. I'd actually gotten the "happy water" lecture once before, so I confess to having tuned some of it out. You can see an example of the sort of machine involved here - but warning, auto-play videos on the page, not really work safe. (Please do not take this as an endorsement of the product. I'm an RN. I've had more classes, recently, on human biology and microbiology than most people get in a lifetime. There is ZERO scientific evidence to support the claims that this water is better for you or healthier. Luckily, it's probably not any more harmful than regular water, either, and most of the machines seem to do about as good a job as a Brita style filter in taking out particulates.)
Anyway, my mind was in story mode. And because of that, as she finished her talk, I blurted out: "Hey, what if someone wanted to build a healthier sports drink or water, and bottled nanites into their drink to make it work? The FDA doesn't check for nanites. No one would ever know. And then, what if something went wrong...?"
Everyone in the room thought that was an awesome idea for a story, except the health-spa-water-lady, who I think was a little offended and left. I hope I didn't hurt her feelings; I owe her one. Once my current novel is done, that's for sure going to be a short story.
The other day I posted about those eTombs, because I thought they were cool. Not sure why, besides that - until this morning, when I woke up with a really cool short fiction idea focused around an eTomb. Seems like my subconscious was trying to say something ever since I saw the original post.
My other short story idea in the last two weeks was from a random story generator. I forget which one; I was trolling a bunch of them someone linked to from the NaNoWriMo forums. This was one of those sites where you click a dropdown for 1, 5, 10, 15, or 20 story ideas, and it generates the number you want. Stuff like "lost son meets ancient enemy", "twins wage war on spotted turtles". Three elements per idea - character / something happens / character. So I saw this one that said wise beggar outwits dragon. My mind just latched onto it, and about ten minutes later, I had an outstanding idea for a long short or short novella.
Three short story ideas in the last two weeks. And the pace seems to be picking up. I've been telling my brain to work on short stories for about a month now, because I wanted to write some shorts after November was over, hadn't written any in a long time, and didn't have any ideas shorter than a short novel length. The wait was a little frustrating, but the mind is a curious thing. Keep it focused on a task for long enough, and it just starts producing.
Now, I have a feeling that so long as I keep thinking "give me more short stories" my subconscious will continue to link things I see together into ideas.
What an amazing feeling!
Not that I'm ignoring novels, mind you, but I have something of a backlog of novel ideas in my little notebook already. And, I have a feeling there is a new one building back there already, not quite connected together yet. Something epic romantic fantasy, maybe. I guess I'll see when it's ready to arrive. I think the point is, don't fret about ideas. Ideas happen. They're all around us. They're a matter of asking - if this was so, then what if? Or, if this happened, what happens next? The world breathes ideas for stories at us every day, but it's up to us to choose to soak those in, instead of deflecting them as useless data.
Tell your mind you want to make stories. And then listen. The stories will come.