Where do you get your ideas as a writer?

credit: Julian Santacruz Used under a CC licence

I have three idea reservoirs:

My obsessions

Lots of things freak me out. Other things seem really cool. Usually– but not always–  these are the same things. For whatever reason I am drawn to dark and disturbing things. Friends who are “believers” tell me this is because I have a heavy karmic debt. Whatever.

I am often thinking odd thoughts. I jot them down when I’m riding public transit. A selection from the last week:

“How long does it take to flense an average size human body anyway?”

“If owls were suddenly much larger than human beings, how long would it take them to figure out they could eat us? And given that we are less hairy than mice, would this pose problems for giant owls horking up bundles of undigested human bones– the mouse bones are always encased in a dense mat of fur and mucous, but since we have less hair, maybe our bones would be painful for giant owls to hork? Would this deter them? Would people with really long hair, or dudes with super thick and substantial dreadlocks be delicacies for giant owls?”


I read a lot. Sometimes things other people have written are so beautiful or evocative or disturbing that I steal something from it. All writers do this. It’s a sign of respect and appreciation.

The “What If” Game

I ask myself “what if” in most situations, then try to push it to some level of absurdity or horror. Lots of interesting grotesqueries in that activity.

On the Panopticon and Being Discussed by Strangers . . . or Be Careful What You Click On

I had a weird experience the other day. I was checking out the stats on my other (not-about-writing) blog. There was a noticeable uptick in the number of views.  In exploring the details of where the viewers were coming from, I noticed that quite a few came from the same source. I copied and pasted the source URL into my browser to see what was going on.


It was some kind of conversation forum where a bunch of peeps were discussing shoes, outfits, style, and the like. One person had posted a link to some pics of me for the other forum peeps to look at as an example of someone whose style was similar to her own. Her forum-buddies chimed in their various opinions. Apparently I was found lacking and the poster was deemed superior in every way.

That wasn’t the weird part– indeed, as the Interweebs goes, everyone was quite civil. Plus I’ve already been to the 8th grade, so I am aware that people put each other down, damn with faint praise, and act all judgy (I sometimes– to my continung chagrin– do so myself). Nevertheless it was weird to be discussed by people I didn’t know. It was kind of like being in the bathroom stall in a public washroom and overhearing people you don’t know talk about you. I also felt strange about being in the forum and reading what they wrote without them knowing I was there seeing their comments. Until this year I’ve stayed off social media, and avoided participating in blog comments sections and other such places, preferring to lurk and just check out what others say. I suppose entering the panopticon was inevitable, and so were the vague unsettled feelings that come with it.

It’s funny, I was totally prepared- when starting my blogs- for people to write and say mean, nasty, horrible, and unreasonable things. So far, no one has. But I didn’t expect to be unsettled by ‘overhearing’ discussions.

Favourite words and being creepy, part II

Juggernaut – a massive force that crushes everything in its path. Derived from the Hindi name Jagannath, one of the avatars of Vishnu, Lord of the World.

Prestidigitation – slight of hand. Cobbled together from the French word preste (nimble), the Italian word presto (quick), and the Latin digitus (finger). Nimble Quickfinger! Nimble Quickfinger would be a great name for an androgynous, sexually voracious pickpocket in a high fantasy setting. Nimble Quickfinger, the scourge of all the brothels in King’s Landing! (apologies to George R.R. Martin).

Dropsy – archaic term for edema, swelling due to water retention

Endentulous – without teeth, as in “Grandad’s endentulous now, he finds it harrowing to eat a normal meal. He has become skeletal and truculent as a result. Furthermore, he can no longer practice prestidigitation due to his dropsy. It’s as though his corporeal body conspires against him and thwarts his every attempt at happiness. If it weren’t  for his near-total amnesia, he’d be hell to live with; a real juggernaut.”

I only recently learned the word “endentulous”. I couldn’t sleep and was reading some City of Vancouver coroner’s reports on the Interweebs. (Yes, this is one of the many creepy things I do in the middle of the night; nevertheless, I am mostly harmless). The person who died was referred to as “endentulous”. Note to self: save enough money so that when I am old I can live in a care home with properly trained staff. What happened to this individual because he had no teeth and was being fed by caregivers who did not have the correct skills was awful. If you want to know, I will tell.

Creepy word sentences

Couldn’t do it in one. Here’s what I have:

Judith was no longer skeletal. In fact her corporeal form had rounded out nicely.However, her attitude was harrowing. To make matters worse, her amnesia frustrated her, and increased her truculence.

On favourite words and being creepy


Like most writers, I have some favourite words. I was recently writing a short piece for another website on this topic, and I discovered that many of my favourite words are thematically linked. In a nutshell, they are creepy.

A sampling . . .

SKELETAL (but only pronounced the UK way, skel-EE-tal, not the US way SKEL-eh-tel).

AMNESIA (make a nice baby girl’s name, don’t you think?)

HARROWING (not sure why I like this one, but I do. The relationship the contemporary definition has to the verb to harrow is interesting)

TRUCULENT (not as creepy as the others, but still an interesting word. You can roll it around your mouth like a poisoned menthol cough drop. Go ahead, I’ll wait) 

CORPOREAL (esp. the way I tend to use it, as in “He was utterly surprised to see he had left this corporeal plane and was now plummeting toward a lake of fire.”)

I wonder if I could construct a sentence that uses all of these? The sentence should not be word salad. Let me think about it.