Over at the Webcomics.com private forums, a discussion came up about talking in panels at conventions, and Brad Guigar (of the fun webcomic Evil, Inc) mentioned the following:

If someone asks, "Where do you get your ideas from," it’s a serious question. Don’t be That Guy again.

I’ve been that guy… kinda.  It was a (mostly) serious response, but everyone took it as if I was joking.  Here’s what happened…

Cornered by a wild pack (3 counts as a pack, right?) of Writerus Aspiringien, I willingly subjected myself to their onslaught of inquiries so I might pass down lessons learned on the ways of the hunt (and not feel as guilty if they get ravaged after venturing back out into the Wastelands of the Script).

My answers appealed to their ravenous appetites for all things writerly until one fated question hit me, "Where do you get your ideas?"

"I have a homemade D&D-style random encounter chart I roll on."

From that moment on, they scurried about the subject of writing and headed back out on the hunt.  Perhaps, I wounded them with that answer.  Maybe I revealed too much… too soon.


More-or-less, that’s how it happened.  Details may vary but you get the point.  They didn’t like my answer and the worst part of it all… it was true. 

When I get thoughts or ideas I think could be interesting in or as a story, I jot them down.  I used to read through these ideas from time-to-time to keep them fresh in my mind, but it reached overload capacity within a few years.  So, I decided to put together something simple where I could organize and randomly "roll up" an idea. 

I went to a familiar friend I grew up with–a staple of roleplaying games, the random encounter chart.

If I had an idea I thought needed some extra spice, I rolled on my idea chart to see what sent a spark through the ol’ brain meats.  If I wanted to pull together something new, I’d roll a few times on the charts and the very act of trying to piece together disparate ideas into a fluid, feasible storyline would generate tons of new ideas.  In fact, the number of ideas grew even faster after I created the chart.

I also experienced a side effect to this process… I started believing I could put together a feasible story with any jumble of ideas.  Eventually, I got to the point where I knew I could make a story out of anything anyone could throw at me. 

In just trying to keep up with my ideas, I learned a valuable skill for any writer… but it’s tough sharing this with anyone in person or talking on panels because I still wind up being "that guy".