1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Ideas standing in the way of THE idea.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Aug 2, 2014.

    I think we could all agree that all stories need a central idea--a basic premise which the plot comes out of. Especially with film, this gets boiled down to what's called the LOGLINE, which is a one, maybe two sentence pitch which tells you what the story is about, e.g. A no-name, struggling puppeteer discovers a portal into John Malkovich's head and refuses to leave. It's the core idea that you create a framework around.

    I've got this problem of seeing specific images or characters or conversations in my head first, and then trying to create a premise that bends to meet these ideas. It's problematic, because it doesn't let the story come out organically, but even worse, I find it difficult to get these original scenes out of my mind so that I can create the idea and then flesh it out, rather than the other way around.

    Any thoughts on this?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I have a similar problem. I get an idea, write about it, and then I think of some awesome conversation between two characters and try to force it into what I already have. The results are usually not good. I learned to jot down any cool ideas I get and save them for another piece. At a certain point you have to focus on that one big idea and get rid of everything else.

    I'm not sure if that helped, but I know where you're coming from.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even if we agree that all stories need a central idea--and I'm not so sure, and I'm especially not sure that it needs to be a short little summarizable idea--it sounds like you're trying to create this skinny, boiled-down pitch at the beginning. And it sounds like you're deliberately trying to drive out all creative ideas that don't match that pitch.

    I don't think that's a good idea. I'd let the story develop organically for a while, and then see what the central idea turned out to be. I think that those images or characters or conversations are what your brain wants to say, so why stop it?
     
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  4. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    At least with screenwriting it doesn't work like that. With screenwriting you need the central idea FIRST. Why? Well, a few reasons, but certainly a big one is because screenplays are incredibly more structured than prose, and if you spend a long time deviating from the central idea, you are going to be in trouble, and 2. if you're trying to get any sort of backing, you have to be able to pitch the central idea at the get go before you spend years writing in circles before you figure out what you want your story to be.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. I still can't help thinking that creative stuff that pops up in your head is stuff that shouldn't be suppressed. But I'm willing to accept that I just don't get it.
     
  6. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I'm not saying you should suppress it. But I think it's better to know what you're writing about first.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    See, there I'm just not with you. I may know what I'm writing about after writing a few thousand words (words that might be thrown away) and a few hours of taking long walks while characters talk to each other in my head, but I just can't imagine starting out knowing.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmm. It occurred to me that Being John Malkovich didn't seem the least little bit like the result of a clean, coherent, got-the-whole-idea-and-ran-with-it process. So I went Googling.

    One site (Edited to cite: The Guardian, 10/3/2011, "Charlie Kaufman: why I wrote Being John Malkovich") quotes Kaufman as saying:

    "I had this idea that someone finds a portal into someone's head, and I had another idea that somebody has a story about someone having an affair with a co-worker. And neither one was going anywhere, so I just decided to combine them."

    Wikipedia says:

    Kaufman's idea of Being John Malkovich originated simply as "a story about a man who falls in love with someone who is not his wife". Gradually he added further elements to the story which he found entertaining, such as floor 7½ of the Mertin Flemmer building; in his first ideas, Malkovich was "nowhere to be seen"

    So it sounds like the ideas did develop over time, rather than starting out clean and clear.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know diddly about screenwriting, but seems to me that one could find the main idea after the story is written, much as one can do with writing prose. Might be worth a try, anyway.
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm not quite clear on the OP question but I think I have a better understanding of loglines than I did when I first heard the term. It's not a summary of the work, rather it's a description of the concept.

    I've been working on my logline and I finally have something I think is close:

    It's a serious socio-political novel told through the experiences of young people living fantastic lives in a future colony in another star system.
    That's not the final version, it still needs tweaking. But that is what I consider the logline.

    Now if you were to ask me for that kind of clarity a few months ago, I couldn't have given it. But @Rumwriter, I did have that concept about my novel from the very first draft. Verbalizing it precisely is another matter and yet one more skill we may need to acquire as writers.

    As for what @ChickenFreak is saying, I agree wholeheartedly. There is no one way to develop any story.

    Now if you ask me for a synopsis of the story, I'm not quite there yet. I clutter it up with too many details. It's a complex story not easily explained in a paragraph.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Rumwriter, I agree with @ChickenFreak and others here. You do not have to begin with your central idea. You can write scenes, explore plotlines, develop characters, establish tone, etc. before you get there. The central idea might not become apparent to you until your seventh draft! A lot of my stuff happens that way, anyway. For me it's character first, setting and situation, then hints of plot, and eventually through the mists I perceive the theme. Only after all that can I state a "central idea" with any certainty.

    Nobody says you have to start writing a properly-structured and formatted screenplay from the get-go. Maybe you should try writing your story out in narrative prose first, revise it a few times (don't screenwriters call these "treatments"?) and then proceed to the screenplay stage. I think I read somewhere that James Cameron wrote out a 100-page narrative version of "Avatar" before writing the screenplay. You can't let the required format of the final work interfere with the initial drafts. For some (including me), writing fiction is a long process of gathering ideas, organizing material, and then, after a lot of work, seeing what you've actually come up with. Then you can start refining it. :)
     

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