1. M. B. Wright
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    M. B. Wright Member

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    Comment on story ideas

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by M. B. Wright, Dec 20, 2013.

    Hello all! I'm new here and already I'm loving it.

    A little about me: I've recently decided to make writing my career. So I am very eager to get in and work alongside others who share the same enthusiasm for writing and storytelling. I love fiction in all its varieties, but I am particularly fond of fantasy and to lesser extent science fiction. It's amazing how you can portray universal truths through stories that are made up! I love having that connection between the author and the reader.

    Anyway, to the point. I was and have been wondering for a while now if there was ever a way (on this board or perhaps on another site) to post up a simple synopsis of a story and receive feedback on the idea itself instead of posting up chapters or selections.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Feedback on an idea is worthless. What matters is the execution. You could have a fantastic plot idea but write it poorly. Alternatively, you could write something thought provoking, entertaining and deeply moving with a flimsy plot.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. I know what you're looking for, but there isn't much feedback that can be given that indicates anything to you of value.

    Example:

    Passably good-looking dude with feathered hair from the outer-space version of a trailer park saves the universe with the help of his magic sword, the old dude who lives out back, the outer-space version of a trucker, and this little toad-lookin' fellah he finds in the woods.

    Doesn't sound like much when you strip it down to just that, but it's Star Wars. ;)
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just echoing all of the above. It's what you do with the idea that counts - and of course, that's what makes one a writer. ;)
     
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  5. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Very true. I'm sitting in my office staring at the walls right now, yet with the proper execution I could turn someone staring at blank walls into a bestseller.
     
  6. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    Well, I think it is good to hear that the story idea is good or decent. Because one can write a good story bad or hopefully good. But I don't believe one can write a bad story to be good.

    Then we come on to an entirely different topic, and that is what is good and what is not, *not personal preference. So yeh, a lot of variables to be considered for this question.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're mixing your terms here, so not sure what you mean. An idea is neither good nor bad - it's all in the execution. If it's a bad "story", to me that means it was executed badly.
     
  8. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    A lot of aspiring writers don't know what is cliche and what is not.

    So yeah, lets say bob, an aspiring writer, is as good with his writing skills as Tolkien was with his, but, he writes a story about a christmas calendar suddenly becoming a live creature, who is destined to save the world with his chocolate powers. His writing and as you say, execution, is legendary, but the story is completely idiotic and any sane person would say "It's written like a masterpiece, but the story is complete shit" --okay maybe they wouldn't say that, but you get my point.

    Therefore it might be good to have a person to tell Bob that his story is completey atrocious.

    Something around that is what I meant :)
     
  9. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, an idea is an idea.
    Having the guy for 90120 or whatever on the Donald Trump Roast seemed like a good idea.
    The guy totally bombed and is laughed at as the worst roaster in the history of roast.
    It was damned unpleasant.

    This year's "hidden episode" of Glee's Christmas was a good idea.
    Execution made me feel offended on matters I have no relation to...

    So, an idea is an idea.
    It's all how you present it.
    Even cliche's or terrible puns can be entertaining when well used.

    So, if you post an idea on ANY forum, people can only say whether it's original or that they've seen it elsewhere or that they like the idea.
    Like the idea.
    Not the product, but the idea.
    Two completely different things.
    And the only one that matters is the finished product.
     
  10. Annessa Jones
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    Annessa Jones New Member

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    I think that critiquing plot devices does help. Yes, execution is important, but I think that integral plot points are important to discuss with people as well. However, I don't think that a form thread is the best way to do that. I think that something you should do with someone one on one. That way you can help them to fully understand your idea and they can in return give you a different perspective on your idea.

    Execution may make a book, but having a good, well worked plot and good grammatical execution is what makes a lasting work.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Unless I am misunderstanding you, "well worked plot: and "good grammatical execution" are all part of the execution of the idea.

    I'm surprised that @Cogito hasn't chimed in by now, reminding us that ideas are a dime a dozen, and you will invariably get some kind of mix of "it's been done" (which is true, no matter what the idea is) or "yeah, sounds good", neither of which is particularly helpful.

    @Albirich - My own opinion is that too many young writers today worry about something being "cliche". Of course, if they didn't worry about that, they'd worry about something else. Fear is normal. If you're going to write, you have to get past it. Once you've done it once, it gets easier, but there are always doubts.

    @M. B. Wright - I find that if I have an idea that I think will work, I lay out some basics - who the MC is, the basic conflict, that kind of thing - and if I still like it, I start writing. I don't tell anybody. Not even my wife. I just write. By the time I'm 500-1,000 words in, if I still feel committed, I go with it. If I find I'm starting to doubt it, I leave it and look for something else. If I find I don't have something else, then I dive in and start reading in order to recharge my creative batteries.

    But please don't fall into the trap of going somewhere to "vet" your ideas. It won't lead anywhere good.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
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  12. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    I recall in a high school writing class that we had to submit ten different synopses then the teacher approved which one we were to expand into a short story.
     
  13. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are only so many stories to tell. They've all been done. What you write will be original, unless you're copying something else. Take almost any successful book and think of the basic plot. None of them are going to scream "OMG - this is the life-changing book you must read!" What makes it good is the way it's written and especially the characters.
     
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  14. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    It's a lot like being a stand-up comedian. Most jokes you hear, save for the ones like Bill Cosby who make people laugh by telling their life story, from one comic or another are old jokes told a new way. Think of how many times Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has been retold with a twist on the timeline. From Bill Murray to Mr. Magoo, it's been retold successfully. Movies find their way into book form, books find their way into movies. There are myriads of works out there to seed your attempts.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would have to disagree with you then - the idea may be idiotic, but if readers say "it's written like a masterpiece", it won't matter.

    And yeah, even cliches can turn into well-written stories.
     
  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you really want some feedback on your ideas you might just ask a friend or anyone you know, as most people who will read the story after it's been published wont be writers anyway. :) it will probably be less risky too, since a non-writer will be less likely to "steal your concept". I know there's nothing like that, because it's all been written and so on, but still, some writers are reluctant to share their ideas with other writers... Even though they would probably not write the story the way you see it at all. Just a thought. :)
     
  17. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Critiquing plot - though usually more developed ones - is a good way to pick out plot holes, or potential plot holes, or areas which you might have difficulty explaining.

    I do think a good plot is very important and can, to an extent, allow your execution to be not as good, but, like Wreybies so excellently points out with his Star Wars example, the execution is still by far the most important aspect of storytelling.
     
  18. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    I think in this case you have the cart before the horse. It doesn't matter how good your plot is. If you haven't the writing skills the story will be rejected in a paragraph.

    You say you've decided to make writing your career. I certainly can't say anything against that, and wish you great success. But at the same time I have to point out that your competition, more then a thousand others competing for each publishing slot, has a significant number of people who have been studying technique for a decade or more. Some have been published before. Some have been on writers retreats and to workshops. Have you given thought to how you're going to win that competition? I ask, because as a profession, and a highly competitive one, at that, you can be "just as good as." You have to grab that acquiring editor by the throat on page one and not let go until, "The end." Every single page must be filled with hooks, and the reader must become so emotionally invested in your story that they keep saying, "Well...maybe one more chapter," till they find themselves still reading at 4 am.

    And here's the trick. Plot doesn't do that. Writing does. So instead of posting the synopsis, post the first three pages (750-1000 words). Work in making the prose there change the reader's mild curiosity to active interest. Once you master the art of making the reader need to turn the page the rest is easy, and even a lousy plot will pull the reader through from page one to the end.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Balderdash. Work out your plot holes as you write and develop the story. There is no, repeat no, value in bouncing your story line off other people. You don't need their approval, and discussing the story idea is like shoeing the contents of your shopping cart and asking if they will enjoy the banquet. Raw ingredients are only the beginning. How you combine them, how you prepare and present each portion, that has much more impact on how much your people enjoy the final product.
     
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  20. M. B. Wright
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    M. B. Wright Member

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    Wow. I never thought I'd get such opposition to the idea of getting feedback on an idea. I suppose, now that I've had time to read comments and think it over, that the only situation in which receiving feedback on an idea would be even remotely meaningful is if you're working on the same project with someone else. Interesting. I now realize that asking someone if I have a good idea is like asking if a pile of steel has the potential of becoming part of a skyscraper one day.

    But I ask myself: What about good ideas and bad ideas? How will I know if mine is a bad idea or not?

    In answer to my own question, I suppose that there are no good or bad ideas. There are just...ideas. Ideas in need of refining. The outside of a building looks nice and sleek, but without the inner skeleton of beams and supports, there is no building. The mechanics of storytelling create the skeleton for a well-presented plot and it's how you tell the story that makes the idea worth telling.

    I learned a lot from this, thank you all.

    JayG, I found your advice extremely appropriate in my case, and it opens up a door to a much-needed wake up call. I just recently switched majors from History (I thought I wanted to be a historian because I love the stories of history) but I soon realized it wasn't for me. Now that I'm setting out on my English major, I will take this to heart and figure out what I will bring to the table. However, I understand that it also seems like a "competition" when it comes to becoming a writer, but somehow I don't see it as a "me against them" scenario. I heard some good advice once that bringing great work to the world should be my job, whether I or someone else created it.

    And that's what I want to do! I want to surround myself with people with the same goals and ambition when it comes to speculative fiction. In this environment, it would be less of a competition and more of an act of working together to bring "great work" to the world.
     
  21. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    The problem is, ideas aren't what sell. People will read a premise to determine if the story or movie is something they want to take time out of life to engage, but that is the premise of an already published/produced work.

    Ideas are, as they say, a dime a dozen. There is a new movie out that is little different from The Hunger Games (which is itself a different take on "Rollerball"), except the MC is kidnapped by an unknown group, otherwise it's still a fight to the death. Ideas are a dime a dozen and a cheap idea executed well will produce copycats.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the worst idea ever can become a beloved classic in the hands of a consummate wordsmith, while the best idea ever can bomb in the hands of a talent/skill-challenged beginner...
     
  23. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Beyond anything else, as others have stated, being original is the most important part. Remember, good fiction is written by an open mind that's not afraid to break the so-called "rules." Unfortunately, we seem to be producing a series of "cookie cutter" writers these days that read a few "how to write fiction in ten easy steps!" books and think they can produce a masterpiece, thus leaving us with such atrocities as Twilight, 50 Shades, and The Hunger Games. E.G: Boring stories with relatively flat plots and overall wooden characters.
     
  24. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be careful about using these as warning examples. I'd be ecstatic if I had the commercial success these authors had. Lots of people loved Hunger Games -- I had no interest in reading it, but did read it for my book club, and I thought it wasn't bad.

    As far as Twilight and FSOG -- yes, those irk a lot of folks, especially writers. But they did have some undeniable quality that sure spoke to large numbers of people. I don't think you can dismiss that quite so easily. (And FSOG especially is one that if you asked people what they thought of the plot, you'd likely get a so-so reaction. "So, I'm thinking of writing a trilogy about a virgin who meets a narcissistic billionaire, and engages in bondage and sexual submission. What do you think?")
     
  25. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    It's the way you write it. The only reason FSOG had such success was the theme: sex. Without the XXX scenes, I doubt a publisher would have taken a second glance at it. Heck, I'm surprised the publisher even got to said scenes since I couldn't force myself to read past chapter one.
     

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