They say Nabokov wrote down ideas for stories on little cards: an interesting character, a conflict, an image that struck his attention--whatever. And then when he wanted to write, he sat down and dealt himself a story.
I always find it interesting to imagine what the seed of a book or poem must have been. Of course, there's no way to know what came first, and what the writer stumbled into later. But I imagine that John Green's cards, dealt out for Paper Towns, could look like this:
- a runaway girl
- paper towns (fictional towns that mapmakers invented as copyright traps--if the town showed up on someone else's map, they'd know it was copied.)
- Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"
- classic high school experiences: prom, graduation, and a road trip