Sooner or later, every author, even an author of pornography on the web, is asked, “Where do your stories come from?” The person asking that question of a pornography author often seems to be hoping that the answer will be, “Personal experience. I’ve done everything that I write about and I’d like to do it all again with you.”
Though I dislike disappointing my readers, I’ve always admitted that I’ve never done any of the wild things that I write about and never will. I’m content to let my masochistic fantasies remain as fantasies.
The question, though – Where do I get my ideas from? – deserves an answer nevertheless.
My stories grow from seeds. A story consists of a plot – a sequence of actions. It needs characters to perform those actions. The characters perform in some situation and the actions should lead to an interesting conclusion. The action, especially in sado-masochistic fiction, may require an unusual physical device. And it should give the reader some information. It may even make an argument.
Any one of these – plot, characters, situation, conclusion, device, or argument – can come first and be the seed for the story. My story, “Riding the Devil’s Horse” began when I found a description of the Spanish Horse torture device on the web. “INR” began when I thought about what would happen if a woman wanted to experience rape without unnecessary risk. “A Necessary Beating” began when I read about boxing gloves being invented to make fighting safer.
The seed is the smallest and easiest part of the writing process. I keep lists of interesting seeds for stories that I’ll never get around to writing. “Woman who is in the process of committing suicide is rescued by a sadist.” (a situation) “A woman’s evening gown can have the sleeves sown to the seam at the hips so that it looks normal but prohibits her from raising her arms.” (a device) “Making people afraid is dangerous.” (a principle)
After the seed is chosen, the real work starts. The remaining elements must be created because the seed won’t be a story until it has at least plot, situation, characters, and conclusion. And probably won’t be worth reading unless it also has a moral, principle, or argument.
Adding these other elements to the seed is a problem-solving processes. An author must be a person who likes solving puzzles.
Even choosing a character to tell the story and picking a point of view is a problem that I consider for a while before the writing begins.
I solve most of the other problems as I’m writing, particularly creating difficult situations for the characters and finding interesting ways for them to get out of them. I never have a complete story in my head before I begin. Instead, I let the story unfold as I write. My main guiding principle as I’m writing is to avoid the obvious and try to constantly surprise the reader by having something unexpected happen to the characters or have the characters do something unexpected.
So, the simple answer to the question, “Where do your ideas come from?” is that they can come from almost anything. But they’ll only be worth reading if a lot more work is added to that idea.