Ideas come from everywhere. Sparked by experience, memory, dream, they arc across the landscape of our minds in a constant storm of thought energy. It's easy to sit down and write any number of ideas for stories, for characters, for settings. Try it! If you're not worried about quality, you can fill a page in no time.
Coming up with ideas isn't hard. What's hard is coming up with good ideas. Original ideas. Ideas that can become something awesome.
So how do you know when you've got a good idea?
I don't think you can always tell right away. You have to try it out. Work with it. Write that story, and then see what happens. I've had ideas for scenes I thought would turn out great, and then when I wrote it, it didn't work. Other times I struggled with something I thought wouldn't work at all, and when I wrote it, I was surprised by how well it turned out. So I've stopped trying to second-guess my ideas. I don't argue with my imagination any more. I put the words on the page and then I decide.
But with so many ideas coming all the time, I can't write about them all. I probably had three or four ideas for a blog post today, but this is the only one that I'm actually going to write.
So how to choose?
I think the good ideas tend to stick around. They're the ones I can't get out of my head. With a life of their own, they grow and collect more good ideas. I also think that the good ideas are the ones that fascinate me. If I care about an idea enough to turn it into a story, that means there's something good about it. I also think the good ideas are the ones that when I pitch them to other people, their eyes light up and they say, "I want to read that."
But most of all, a good idea gives me that rollercoaster rush of a feeling - like I'm so excited I could burst. Like I want to run around and shout it out to everyone. Like I can't wait to write it. Like I can't wait for people to read it!
How do you know when you've got a good idea?