Questions Writers Hate Answering

Where do your ideas come from?

I can’t speak for other writers, but all my ideas came to me after I’d signed a contract with a strange fellow named Mr. Scratch.

A group of guys in my improv class had dragged me to a cabana party in the Hollywood hills. We found ourselves in an endless pool with a breathtaking view of West Hollywood. This was at the Chateau of a big director with an appetite for young actors. He was snorkeling through the shallow end dressed like a lifeguard. My buddies didn’t mind. They were hoping the situation would score them a role. I was hoping to score a drink. Good thing there was a bartender in the water. I drank until I was good and beached-whale-drunk. I propped myself up in my palm as everyone gossiped around me.

“Hey Drew, what do you think of all this Lindsay Lohan controversy.”

“I literally couldn’t give a shit.”

“So you’re constipated then?”


“You said that you ‘literally’ couldn’t give a shit. So I took it to mean that you were incapable of shitting due to your use of the adverb literally.”

I found myself wandering through the woods in my swim trunks, ranting about how I’d be hot shit too if only I could put my thoughts into words.

“I’d literally be the toast of Hollywood, or wait, does that mean I’d be burned to a crisp?”

That’s when Mr. Scratch staggered into my path. He walked with a limp, because one his legs had been replaced with custom cloven hoof prosthesis.

“Shit, that’s cool.”

“I know right.”

Mr. Scratch reached into his long plaid coat and drew a strange piece of parchment. I say strange because the paper appeared to have veins and stretch marks on it.

“I couldn’t help but hear you debate the uses of a terms so often mistaken for malapropos, and thought to myself now here’s a man with talent, a talent that merely needs to be unlocked.”

Mr. Scratch unfurled the document. The text was written in that old English font that gangbangers use for forehead tattoos.

“This typeset is illegible.”

“It’s a contract. Wherein I offer to unlock your full literary potential provided you gift me with your metaphysical essence when the time comes.”

“This sounds suspiciously like the first act of The Devil and Daniel Webster, like to the point where a plagiarism accusation would be a thing.”

Mr. Scratch galloped around on his hoof. “I’m pretty sure that book is in the public domain, so we’re just fine.”

I did a drunken search on my phone. “Nope. Looks like Stephen Vincent Benet’s estate renewed it through 2032.”

“Did I say my name was Mr. Scratch? I meant…” He stroked his goatee. “Dr. Scratch. Yes. Dr. Scratch PhD.”

Dr. Scratch outlined his deal in greater detail. I would enjoy seven years of prestige, prominence, and prosperity in the literary community provided I fork over my soul without hesitation when all was said and done. I signed on the blood-spotted line and I’ve been writing ever since.

Whenever I need a new idea I draw a pentagram in the Zen Garden on my nightstand and wait for words to appear. In about five minutes a phantom claw draws a sentence in the sand.

“What if an unprepared father-to-be has a month to renovate a haunted house?”

“What if a little girl’s imaginary friends are scouts from another dimension?”

“What if kidnappers abduct millennials and pose as them social media?”

This has been my writing process for decades now and I’ve yet to liquidate any aspect of my essence. You see the jokes on Dr. Scratch, I took his inspiration, and weaseled out of our deal by making terrible networking decisions, ensuring those years of prestige, prominence, and prosperity will never happen… Sucker.

So the short answer to your question: Where do my ideas come from? Demons. They were always demon. Clearly.

Better question: What inspired this story?

This question narrows the focus, rather than treat the imagination like an ethereal thing that but a few wizards have access to. It gives the author the option to distinguish between influences from life, from art, and fabrications of the mind.

How many pages is it?

Believe it or not a double spaced Word document and a hardcover book are formatted differently. Ask this one and the author has to estimate based on their word count.

If 1 page is 500 words, single-spaced, then a 33,000 word story is 66 pages, and is selling at the reasonable price of 12.95 on CLASH Books (pre-order now).

Better question: How many words is it?

They’ll give you the word count and you can do the math.

I know you’re publishing this as fiction, but really, who is it about?

Full disclosure, my recollections of life events that I’ve shared on this blog are fiction, which isn’t to say that I’ve been willfully bullshitting you, but that my memory doesn’t recall things the way that they actually happened. The moment a life event presents itself in a three-act structure then I know it’s been corrupted by western storytelling.

If a conflict left me moralizing, odds are I was just looking for a silver lining. If I came out of a situation a changed person, a part of me is lying.

The way I see it all autobiographies are “inspired by actual events” and not accurate accounts. Even when the subject recalls to the best of their ability their brains trick them into thinking reality played out like a story. There so rarely are clear heroes and villains, clear conflicts, and clear resolutions. Only in hindsight do we see those story patterns.

That said if any of my stories resemble reality it is through a glass darkly.

I don’t like writing takedown character portraits of my friends. Not because I’m so benevolent, but because I don’t want to commit to an accurate portrayal of someone I know when my story needs that person to do something that would be out of character.

Don’t get me wrong. I plagiarize reality here and there. I scrape through my experiences and pepper them in for flavor. Still, I have no grand aspirations of being a memoirist. I’m trying to be an entertainer.

Better question: What (if any) relationships or life events did you draw from when you wrote this?

This question gives the author a moment to contextualize their answer, to reveal how they manipulate reality to work with fantasy. It tell you far more about their process than the assumption that they copy and paste life events into their writing.

Closing Thoughts

The writing process isn’t magical. Inspiration doesn’t guide writers’ hands in some waking dream state. Writing is work. The right spark can carry us for a spell, but the rest of the process requires structure, resilience, and gumption. Lots of gumption.


He Has Many Names is coming out soon.

Retail Hellis now available on Amazon!

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