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How did you come up with...? - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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How did you come up with...? [Apr. 25th, 2012|01:42 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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I think I have discovered another law of the universe. We're getting down to the really obscure ones here, and I won't be surprised if some of you have discovered it already.

So. It's a known thing in fiction writing that some bits of it will flow automatically for you and some bits you'll have to kind of work at, and which bits are which will vary from person to person. Naming characters, for example, appears to be pulling teeth for some of my friends and easy-peasy for some of my friends and somewhere in the middle for others. Right? And I have a technobabble generator lodged behind my eyes, among other things. If you say that we're doing xenobotany, I can give you xenobotany terms about the quasi-stamen and the carnivorous sympodial group until the trilete spores reconverge. And move on with the rest of the story, 'cause that's how I do.

Okay, so the new law of the universe is: there is an inverse relationship between how long it took you to come up with something and the likelihood that an interviewer will ask how you thought of it. "How did you come up with _____?" might be the thing you can honestly answer by saying, "Well, it's interesting you should ask that, Interviewer, because here is an answer that is witty and erudite, a little bit self-deprecating, and concise. Haha! Oh, and also brings in a close friend or member of my family who will enjoy being referred to." But the odds are muuuuuch better that they ask you, "How did you come up with _____?" when the answer is, "Um...in my...brain? Which comes up with things and I don't know why? Can you ask me about...this other thing? Because it will be a better anecdote. This other thing I can explain."

Maybe this is not a law of the universe. Maybe this is just me.

Anyway because it is my job to make stuff up, about half the answers to "how did you come up with _____?" are made up. Because, "Dunno, I make stuff up sometimes, next question," is just rude, and also not very entertaining.

It's also true, though. I make stuff up sometimes. Then people pay me. It's a good deal when it works. Sometimes it comes with funny stories about the funny stories, but honestly, sometimes the funny stories are just here because I have spent 30 years or so making my brain into a thingy that makes funny stories. Which...turtles all the way down? Do you suppose that's a good answer? No, I didn't think so either.

I think I might default to, "So I was reading this biography of Woody Guthrie...."

See, there's at least one science fiction idea of mine to which that's an honest answer for "how did you come up with." But now you're not going to know which one.

I bet you couldn't tell I was procrastinating from revisions. Oh wait! I have smart friends. You totally could tell. But the interview question thing really was real.
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Comments:
From: swan_tower
2012-04-25 06:52 pm (UTC)
but honestly, sometimes the funny stories are just here because I have spent 30 years or so making my brain into a thingy that makes funny stories.

We were sort of talking about that this weekend. See, my brain was Totally Fired for like three days straight, because it kept coming up with horrible, horrible things (like bad jokes, or mock-suggestions of the sort that send one directly to hell). And as a friend pointed out, this is the unfortunate side effect of training one's brain to come up with stuff all the time: it will persist in doing so, even when the stuff is Wrong.

As for the other: I don't get asked that question very often. But yes, interviewers never seem to ask about the things for which you have witty answers prepared.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-04-25 06:54 pm (UTC)
It's like the rest of life that way.

And like in the rest of life maybe you can sometimes steer, and if you steer the same direction too many times you have the same five stories all over the internet and people roll their eyes. Hmm. Problem that way too. Sigh.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-04-25 06:55 pm (UTC)
Also I totally resemble the remark about the horrible, horrible things, which is probably why we are friends.
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From: swan_tower
2012-04-25 07:36 pm (UTC)
Probably! :-D
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[User Picture]From: davidgoldfarb
2012-04-25 07:29 pm (UTC)
I've read that Terry Nation was once asked how he came up with the name "Dalek". In response he claimed that he was looking at a set of encyclopedias, and one volume was "DAL to LEK". And the interviewer swallowed that (or at least, didn't directly dispute it).
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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2012-04-25 08:12 pm (UTC)
Well, not directly disputing it is probably proper interview protocol, unless it's a political interview on an actual issue or something.

But maybe it was just a very skinny set of encyclopedias :-).

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[User Picture]From: davidgoldfarb
2012-04-25 08:56 pm (UTC)
That put the breaks between volumes in extremely eccentric places?
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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2012-04-25 09:36 pm (UTC)
The only thing that seemed eccentric to me was that it was too much in one volume, hence my comment. Am I missing something else? Three-letter (or longer) stampings on the bindings to show what's in each volume are in my experience routine on encyclopedias.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2012-04-25 11:28 pm (UTC)
Maybe it was "DAL-EK" rather than to "LEK."
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-04-25 09:49 pm (UTC)
I'm with dd_b: my experience of encyclopedias is that they tend to break eccentrically.
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[User Picture]From: davidgoldfarb
2012-04-25 10:26 pm (UTC)
Most encyclopedias I've seen have tried to have each volume about the same size. An encyclopedia in which "A to DAL" is the same size as "DAL to LEK" is an encyclopedia that is written very eccentrically indeed.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-04-25 10:34 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, that part is completely unbelievable.
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From: zwol
2012-04-26 12:27 am (UTC)
I am so very much the sort of person who cannot think up names, and I am glad to hear that you know others, because although I have suspected that there are other people with this problem, I have never heard anyone else admit it.

Is there a piece of The True Tale of Carter Hall about which you have an erudite and witty story for how you came up with it?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-04-26 12:31 am (UTC)
Oh, several! It's an entire novel, and the bits that connect up to people I know are particularly rampant in that one. The thing I was being interviewed for was a short story, and those often come with only one or two witty and erudite How I Dun It By Me stories.

The ring the Lady in the Lake gives Carter, for example: the only reason you can't see it in this picture is because it's too small and the angle is wrong.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2012-04-26 02:23 am (UTC)
And I have a technobabble generator lodged behind my eyes, among other things.

Heh. This isn't a service you provide for a fee, is it? *counts out dollars, temptingly*
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-04-26 03:00 am (UTC)
Not a fee, no. I am a Very Helpful Mris for my friends who buy me tea and/or dessert when they see me at cons.
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