Hey folks, on this comfortably chilly Friday morning, we bring to you the next installment in our series of guest posts from the Bolthole forumites.This one is courtesy of He2etic, writer and video gamer extraordinaire.
Depending on who you ask, developing an idea for a story is the easiest thing in the world (in which case, stay away from these crazy creative people) or one of the most difficult things they’ve ever done.
Ideas are one of the things that we’ll never run out of. We’ll keep having them, and keep trying to apply them. But the joy of fiction is that if an idea doesn’t work in the marketplace or reality, it can still make for a good story. Hell, how do you think many bar tales began? With a terrible, terrible idea. In fact, how many comedy shows begin with one of the main characters getting an awful idea to get rich quick or get with the ladies?
You can capitalize on almost any idea if you find the right medium. So now that we’ve had our appetizer, let’s bite into the main course. How to come up with an idea.
The human mind is a curious, interesting and above all, powerful computer. It takes in information at a speed that our current PCs can only dream of, some in formats we don’t even know how to begin to make digital. We were once taught that we have a mere five senses; sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. In reality, we have way more than that, including the ability to guess temperatures, pain, pressure. Every moment you spend conscious, your mind is absorbing data all around you. You don’t even realize you’re doing it.
As such, this data is collected and stored in your mind. It swirls around, sometimes creating a new idea consciously. And sometimes unconsciously, as in when we dream.
The more exposure to new data, concepts and thoughts, the more ideas are likely to come of it. Nothing stems creative like exposure to new things. Books, movies, food, travel. There is no shame in being open to new things and experiencing new cultures and suggestions, provided you don’t go over any cliffs or edges here.
Not all ideas are huge or amazing. Sometimes, they are tiny things which come out of no where. For example, just yesterday I went to see The Muppets movie. And oddly enough, one scene gave me a small idea for my novel submission next year. How does a movie created primarily for kids and families give any ideas that could relate to a universe where war and genocide are the norm? Who knows. But it did.
But one thing you must be on guard against is jumping at inspiration from a new source too readily.
For example, if you finish a book and try to draw too readily from the well of ideas and story, you are at a risk of potentially plagiarizing from that source material. There is a damn good reason why authors do not read fan fiction, even if written about their own work. You probably don’t mean too, but when something becomes your obsession, you need to give yourself some time to unwind and let your mind dissect the ideas and themes. Once these ideas melt in the pot, you’re free to create something fresh and new even if the originating source of an idea is something recognizable- so long as its different enough.
The glee I take from writing however, is that this is the time that the most number of ideas hit me.
I might get my start from a dream or a random piece of inspiration that strikes, but once the words hit the page, something starts. All of a sudden new ideas are coming out of no where. Some serious brain storming starts and flashes of illumination leave marks on the story here and there. Some are huge, like bold new characters or plot twists or even entire worlds.Others are tiny details which make the world complete and interesting.
Unfortunately, it’s quite common that in the creation of a new story, we writers have a tendency to get a little proud of our work. We just sank hours, days, weeks and even months into a new piece and we may think it’s perfect just the way it is. You have to keep reminding yourself that the first thing you write is always a draft. It’s not perfect. It’s not genius. And yes, you need an editor to beat the ego out of you. Sometimes, in your rush to deliver creativity, you can actually deliver one too many ideas. Other times, an idea needs to be worked out, the details expounded upon and developed. No matter how much you love it, an idea has to get cut.
But don’t be discouraged. If you have to remove an idea, do as Van Wilder said and, “Write that down.”
In the long run, an idea is actually the least amount of work you’ll do. The writing, editing, rewriting and pushing of an idea are where the work really is. An idea comes out of no where, with no way of really knowing how much time it took to create or devise.
But we can keep track of the time spent actually trying to turn the idea into something more tangible as we craft our stories. A lot of people tend to think, erroneously I might add, that the right idea is all it takes to change the world. It’s far more than that, because an idea has to be made into something. It has to be made into reality in some shape or form. The electric heater was a great idea, but it’s not the idea alone that warms my feet.
An idea is just an idea. Get used to having ideas and having to let some of them go. Get used to saying, it’s just an idea. Because you’ll be having tons of them.
Ideas will come. So write away.
About the Author:
He2etic is known for reading, writing and ranting on his personal blog, the Shoutbox and on Facebook. A gamer, programmer, amateur writer and generally up to no good, He2etic’s psychobabble can be found at http://he2etic.wordpress.com/ the only blog that comes with a warning from the FDA… Somehow.