That's an excellent question. You see, when two grown-up ideas love each other very, very much--
Wait, sorry. Wrong subject entirely. Ahem.
You may remember last year's excellent first Pros Big Bang and you may now be observing the organizational proceedings for this year's round with a mix of -- dare I say it? -- excitement and trepidation.
"Self," you may be saying to yourself, "The Big Bang looks incredibly fun, and I wish I could sign up for it. But I cannot, because I have no ideas! I wouldn't want to sign up without any idea of what to write!"
Never fear! We are here to help. (It is, of course, perfectly licit to sign up as a writer without having an idea, should you be that daring. But you may not be, hence this post.)
Here, in a vaguely-ordered list, are some ways to help you come up with ideas:
1. Engage closely with the canon!
Grab your DVDs and get ready to take notes. Watch your favorite episode! Watch your least favorite episode! Watch them all from the beginning! Or the end!
Are there things you still don't understand about this episode? Did the plot work? (To be honest, there are a lot of Pros plots I just can't follow.) Why did Doyle do Y, when Z would have made so much more sense? How motivated do you think the villain of the episode was? How would you write it differently?
Are there things about the episode that you disagree with, or that make you really, really angry? (I am still bitter that the end of "Involvement" was a long shot with no sound, and I feel cheated of the emotional payoff. What do they really say to each other? Then what happens? That's a story idea right there.) It doesn't have to be anger as a motivating force, but I find that being angry at canon is fairly motivating. You are free to pick nicer emotions.
"And then what happens?" is a generally a pretty good question to ask. We can always use more episode tags and missing scenes! Just pick an episode and get thinking! What happens before the first episode? What happens after the last one? You can decide that, too! Wheeee!
I don't know about you, but when I was doing ProsWatch most of my episode reviews had a bunch of questions, or things I picked up on that I thought were curious. Say, as per "Mixed Doubles," do you think Bodie really thinks he's going to hell? Why does he think that? What might his past have been like for him to think that? Or if he doesn't really think that, why would he lie to Doyle? If you can answer that, that's the beginning of a story right there. So, if you were doing ProsWatch while it was being held, you can go back and see if you left yourself any useful story-sparking notes.
2. Talk to the characters
Not necessarily out loud, but if that's what it takes, go for it!
I'm probably not the only one who just sits there and thinks through random fannish scenes. I'll be minding my own business, trying to rinse the conditioner out of my hair or walk down the street or what have you, and there'll just be a random image or fragment of a scene that has no context whatsoever. Say, it's sunset and Doyle is at home at his flat staring out the window and I happen to know he is lonely and absolutely exhausted. How did he get there? Why is he so tired? (I still haven't figured this one out.)
Tip: If imagining while walking, do not become so involved in imagining that you walk into things.
3. AUs: Pick a time, any time
Okay, guys. For last year's Big Bang I wrote a crossover with Harry Potter. I have written an AU set in Ancient Rome (all right, it was really Pompeii) in which Doyle was a slave-prostitute. And I'm here to let you in on a secret: AUs are really, really fun to write.
I mean, think about it: you already like Pros. You get to combine Pros, which you like, with something else you like! It's a win-win! Piracy on the high seas! Regency romances! Post-apocalyptic wastelands! Ancient Egypt! Future dystopias! Outer space! The Middle Ages! Vampires, werewolves, witches, and zombies!
Or you can cross Pros over with another fandom you like. Think of a fandom you like! I bet if you think about it you can figure out how Bodie and Doyle might fit. (Believe it or not, the respective series timelines of Pros and Harry Potter do happen to work together nicely.) Or you can mess with the timelines however you want, because, hey, you're the author here. They can serve on the Enterprise, the Galactica, Serenity, Babylon 5, the Death Star (though you might want to transfer them off it fairly quickly), or the Liberator! They can meet all your other favorite characters!
See? Easy and fun!
4. AUs: Pick a point of divergence
For those of you who enjoy more canon-based AUs, this is just as easy. All you have to do is ask yourself "what if?" and then attempt to answer it. And unlike saying "what if Bodie and Doyle lived in the world of a popular fantasy novel series?" you can do this just by watching the show.
Pick a point, any point where something happens, or any past point of character history. Anything. Then just say, well, what if it had happened differently? What if Bodie went to art school and Doyle joined up with mercenaries in Africa? What if Doyle actually married Ann Holly? What if Mayli shot Bodie, or what if Bodie never found her? What if they never disarmed the bomb in "Stake Out?" (Ouch.) What if that inquiry in "The Rack" had gone worse?
...you get the idea. You can do this with any number of details, and maybe one of them will spark a story.
5. Sequels, WIPs, and so on
If you're going to steal, steal from the best: yourself!
If you're anything like me, you probably have a file -- or a bunch of files -- devoted to works in progress. You know, the stories you started that you didn't quite get around to finishing. Maybe you jotted down a quick scene or image once upon a time. Maybe you have ten thousand words you got through before you ran out of steam. They're still good! You must have liked it enough to write it down in the first place, right?
So haul out your old WIPs and take a look at them. Admire all the beautiful turns of phrase that you now have no memory of writing! Wonder where you were going to take the plot with that one! Come up with a shiny new ending!
See, you've done part of the work already. Might as well keep going!
6. They're cliches because we love them so much
Come on, you know you've always wanted to write a story where Bodie gets amnesia. Or Doyle gets amnesia. Or Cowley gets amnesia. Or Bodie and Doyle have to pretend to be gay. Or where Doyle thinks Bodie's dead but he isn't, really, and it was all a misunderstanding!
It can be your turn now! Just because someone's written one before doesn't mean you can't do it again!
7. Steal one of ours!
The prompt post is coming soon!
Remember, there's also last year's prompt post, full of still-unused prompts just begging for a story. Read through and see if anything catches your eye. (Looking at the list, I don't think any of them got written! More for you!)
8. Helpful links
Anna S's list of kinks, tropes, and cliches. If it's something fandom likes, it's probably on that list.
Similarly, why not check out the prompts lists for communities like au_bingo (prompt list), schmoop_bingo (prompt list), hc_bingo (prompt list), kink_bingo (kink wiki, which is an exceedingly thorough prompt list full of examples), and cliche_bingo (prompt list)? Just because you never signed up for these challenges doesn't mean you can't look at their tropes for inspiration!
Some of metafandom's links on writing may be helpful.
the_safehouse's memories contain links to the last ProsWatch, organized by episode. Useful for jogging your memory about particular episodes and/or seeing if anyone points out any lacunae you'd like to explore...
...so, how do you come up with ideas? Any methods to share? How have you found the ideas for your stories?
Start thinking, and look for this year's prompt post next week!