That’s a bit random

There’s one question authors are asked all the time.

It’s this:


The Ideas Toilet, yesterday

The Ideas Toilet, yesterday

Well, I get my idea from the ideas toilet. It’s a brilliant invention. You sit on it, pull the flush and new ideas flow into the pan.


OK, I admit it – that’s a lie.


The real answer is that ideas come from all kinds of places. From conversations, from places I visit, from things I read… the list goes on and on.

But sometimes the ideas don’t come at all – especially when I sit down and tell my brain: ‘RIGHT, I NEED AN IDEA NOW, YOU USELESS CAULIFLOWER!”

This is a problem when you have to write two strips for the Beano each and every week! That’s over 100 ideas needed every year – and sometimes they just don’t flow at all.

But it’s OK. I have a trick for when the idea toilet doesn’t work.

I get my friends to shout random words at me.

OK, maybe not shout, but at least email them to me.

It’s amazing how it works. Looking at a link of random words sometimes fires the imagination in ways you weren’t expecting.

For example, a couple of months ago I was trying to come up with a new adventure for Roger the Dodger, the Beano’s resident scam artist. The only problem was that I was completely stumped and so asked my writery chum Gareth L. Powell to email me a list of words. He responded with this lot:

  • Soup
  • Desk
  • Carnival
  • Octopus
  • Rucksack
  • Pickpocket

I looked at the words and octopus made me chuckle. What would Roger the Dodger do with an octopus? What kind of schemes could he come up with?

And so Roger’s new pet, Octo the Dodge-Pus, was born. A few week’s later Octo made his debut, with art from Barrie Appleby, and Roger soon put him to good (or should that be bad?) use.


Roger the Dodger © DC Thomson and Co.

Of course, there are other ways you can use random word lists to come up with ideas. Look at those words again. Can you combine any of them to come up with story ideas? What about an octopus who is a victorian pickpocket? Or a girl who keeps a carnival in her magic rucksack? And then there’s the tale of the rubbish chef who boiled up desks and other pieces of furniture to make soup. Yuck.

Why not have a go yourself? Ask someone to come up with a list of random words and see what stories you can conjure up.

In fact, there’s loads of random word generators online. Here’s a list I just got from the Creative Random Word Generator. What stories can you make up from them?

  • granny
  • shoelace
  • snake
  • warship
  • laser
  • belt

3 thoughts on “That’s a bit random

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