1. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    re: asking for ideas

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by mammamaia, Jul 25, 2008.

    this has been bugging me for a long time... i'd love to know what you think about it:

    if other people have to give a person 'ideas' for even a basic plot premise, whose work will it be?... what is a 'writer' who can't come up with his/her own ideas?

    isn't the most vital requisite for being a (creative) writer the ability to come up with ideas on his/her own?

    would a surgeon who has to ask others where, what, and how s/he should cut be considered qualified to be called a surgeon, because s/he merely holds the knife?... as with a writer, isn't the first requisite for a surgeon the ability to make those decisions on his/her own?

    i have to wonder if all the requests i see on sites like this for 'ideas' by those who seem to want to be 'writers' is the result of our society having drifted into the 'everything should be easy!' generation, thanks to so much having been made so, by technological advances...

    what are your thoughts?

    love and puzzled hugs, maia
     
  2. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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    On the most basic and fundamental level, I agree with you. A writer should be able to come up with their own ideas. In fact, I find it incredibly hard to stomach when people say they have no ideas for a story, because I can take almost any excerpt and come up with at least one basic plot that it could follow.

    But I don't find it annoying when others ask for help. Perhaps because I like helping others out, or perhaps because I just don't really mind sharing ideas that I just came up with that I know will never get written (by me). In all honesty, how many of the ideas out there are truly original? Not many I'd wager.

    So while I'd prefer a writer came up with their own idea, I don't mind throwing out an idea. However, this is generally limited to where a writer has written something (a prologue, a first chapter, an excerpt, etc.) and just has no idea where to take it. I don't like giving out ideas to people who haven't written anything yet - I don't know them and I don't know how they write or what they like to write, how am I supposed to suggest something as personal as a story idea to people like that?

    Although I am irked by your comment about my generation ;) Not all of us are lazy bums who sit around and do nothing and expect life on a silver platter. Most of us are more than willing to work, and work hard. It's just that the bad apples stand out.

    Reading over this post - I jump all over the place. Sorry.

    ~Christian
     
  3. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    But, on the flip side, no plot is original. It all depends on how you write it.

    And I resent that comment about my generation also.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mammamaia,

    Since you asked, I'll give my thoughts on the topic.

    There are several factors.

    One is insecurity. The aspiriting writer believes that their ideas are not good enough. It is always easier (they think) if someone else takes the first step for them. Plus, if it does not work out, it wasn't their idea to begin with.

    Two is lack of imagination. So much today's entertainment doesn't require depth of thought, or to put A+B together to get C. Movies and television are not challenging, and those that are generally don't earn money so are not made. Reality shows simply manipulate the viewer, and sit-coms, well they have laugh tracks, helping the viewer know what' supposed to be funny. Reading doesn't happen as often, play is more video games than actually role playing, goofing around with friends outside, and making it up as you go.

    Third is attention span. Sure it might be a good idea, but I'll actually have to work at it to make it. Plus, I never paid attention in school. I did (or do) just enough to get by, and now if I want to come up with something and develop it, well I'll have to work, and it'll take time, and it'll be hard. That'll take too long. Maybe if someone helps along the way, carry part of the load. And to be told it isn't good enough and they'll actually have to revise/edit, scrap it and try again? Right.

    Finally, lack of drive and laziness. Taking the easy way out. Getting someone else to do it. Or actually committing time and effort, and having to 'work' even when it's not fun. Not in the cards.

    I guess I could add one more--it's fun to say "I'm a writer and working on a novel". And one can talk about doing it for years, but never actually have to do too much to accomplish it to keep the ruse going. And going on a forum and asking for ideas...well, that is being a writer, right? That requires little imagination and even less effort.

    Okay, I've made some generalizations. And there can be the person here or there that can legitimately deny they don't fall into one or more of the broad categories.

    There is the case where a person only needs a place to start...a boost. A bit of mentoring before they take off and really give it a go, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

    Terry
     
  5. October
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    October New Member

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    Well, regarding that comment about my generation, why is it that you don't track each of us down and send us some good old-fashioned letters rather than lazily use this advancement in technology? ;)

    Just because someone asks for help to get some ideas flowing doesn't mean that the end result will be unoriginal. The most likely outcome of people giving suggestions is that the writer will have an original idea, sparked by realizing what he does and does not like about the suggested plot. It's just hard to get those ideas started sometimes.

    -Dan H.
     
  6. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well said, i agree with the comments.

    Id say more, but the lazy factor its hard with me.

    Procrastinating is my friend.... or fiend.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    In agreement with the OP.

    Knowing full well that I am stepping into a thread made of kerosene…

    I have to agree with the OP. There is asking for help, which we all do, and there is asking for material, which is a bit over the line.

    Do we all hit dry spells? Of course.

    Should we depend on others to just hand us work during those dry spells? No, we should not.

    It is a lazy way out, especially when just living, real life, out in the world, can be an amazing source of fodder for writing.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't mind tossing out some ideas to play with if the person has been working on a story and ran into a wall. On the other hand when someone says, "I want to write a story about monsters, can you guys give me some ideas?" I just shake my head and laugh, and move on.

    Creativity surges and it ebbs. I'd like to think that the other person won't use my ideas as is, but that they might trigger a "No... but maybe if I ..." reaction.
     
  9. apothecaryrose
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    apothecaryrose Member

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    I agree about the ideas needing to be original. Like the OP said if you're asking others for ideas then who is really writing it. It becomes sort of like a ghostwriter type idea.

    But what I don't see a problem with is brainstorming with another person. There shouldn't be anything against a pair or a group of writers getting together and shooting ideas back and forth and asking questions to get the other writer thinking about the plot they have. It's a good way to get a person to think about things differently.

    What is wrong is expecting the idea to be handed to you.
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmm? Isn't that the definition of an editor? LOL!


    This is a pretty much black and white issue for me. If someone is lacking in whatever it takes to produce a basic outline of a plot, then I am not going to invest my time in that person. I go out of my way in life to help others who help themselves, and I'm willing to do more than my share of the work. But when a person doesn't make a simple basic effort to produce an initial concept, then they can't look to me for ideas.
     
  11. inkslinger
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    inkslinger Contributing Member

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    What's up with all of the constant criticism on my generation? :p

    But I agree. I don't see the point of asking for help with basic plot ideas, lol. It kind of sort of defeats the purpose of writing creatively. What you conjure up should be of your creation and only of your creation. If you need to ask for help about simple plot points, there's a problem. That's not you using your imagination, your creativity, your ability as a writer. I mean, when you ask for help and take so many ideas from others for your plot, whose story does it become? Yours? Uhhh.....
     
  12. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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    I think a sit-down session with a person interested in your idea and/or a writer, where you shoot your ideas and they ask questions about it etc., is one of the most invaluable things that you can get. It really develops your ideas, helps them solidify, etc. And it gives you a new spin on things, especially if they suggest a few 'what ifs.'

    ~Christian
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thanks for all the good feedback, everyone!

    as for the 'generation' thing:

    nowhere did i say or even intimate that 'all' of you are lazy, etc. ... i merely referred to the latest generation in general, as you can see by my wording... and did so just in an 'i wonder if' way that did not refer to everyone, but was merely posing a question about only those who ask for ideas...

    so please don't misquote me, young'uns, and accuse me of dissing you all, which i certainly was not... fyi, 17 people on this planet who are members of that generation are also much-loved grandkids of mine!

    love and hugs to all, m
     
  14. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Your generation does not have a good work ethic. They are lazy. They expect to be paid for just showing up at work, rather than for the quality of work they produce. In addition, your generation has lost its moral compass, having babies out of wedlock, engaging in 'casual' sex and openly abusing illegal drugs. I'm afraid your generation is headed for collapse as a viable society. God bless you, you're going to need it!"

    Those words (admittedly paraphrased) were told to me in 1966 by my grandmother. Do they sound familiar? LOL

    ps My failing generation brought us microwaves, portable phones, home computers, the internet, GPS, 50mi per gallon cars, access to solar energy, countless medical improvements like open heart surgery, effective treatment for many forms of cancer, internal insulin delivery . . . the list goes no and on. Shame on my generation! LOL


    edit: I almost forgot. . .my generation created Viagra!!!!
     
  15. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    and for that alone you will ALL burn in Hell.
     
  16. Fluxhavok
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    Fluxhavok Active Member

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    I agree, working through the blocks, breaking through the walls yourself, will make you better writer. . If you work through it on your own then you'll have a better understanding of who you are and what insipires you, so next time you'll be able to get through it much quicker or totally avoid a block all together. Personally, using the ideas of others makes me feel like a fraud. Like those boybands that don't write their own songs or choreograph their own dance moves, or pick out their own clothes, or style their own hair and lip sync every concert...

    That's right you teenyboppers... i so just went there... your beloved boybands are just soulless talentless meat puppets. That's why very few ever succeed when they try to go solo.

    Anyway, the moral is, if you want to become a math whiz, then stop paying the nerds to do your homework.
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    “Yes, officer, I’m on the Corner of Plot Creation and Reviewing. I need to report a severe thread derailing. Yes. Yes, sir. Yeah, it looks pretty bad.”
     
  18. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    ooooops
     
  19. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    But, maia, if you referred to our generation in general, then wouldn't that include all of us teenagers? Including every one of us that were angered by your comment. Yes, there are a lot of us who are lazy, but still, it's not us in general.

    And salty, you're right. But teenagers were the ones who figured out how to get the iPhone unexclusive to the At&t network. Score one for our generation! lol
     
  20. topper
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    Heehee, I once read somewhere that every generation thinks the younger generations are going to pot. A perspective difference, perhaps?

    And Emily, a comment in general would refer to the majority of people, not everybody in the group. So, I might say that small dogs are annoying, generally, while still knowing of one or two exceptions. (Not that I agree with maia...I just think that our generations has to cope with different ways of working hard.)
     
  21. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, the majority would mean more than 50%, so, by default, that would mean that half of those 17 grandkids would have to fall under that category.
     
  22. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    On a related note, whenever someone says "I have this idea for a story..." and then goes on to describe their story, "Do you think this sounds good?" I am always severly tempted to say "No!" The problem is that you can never put enough into that description to actually give an idea of what the story would be like, and the descriptions inevitably sound like a bad plot cobbled together with stereotype characters, unrealistic events and overall suckiness.

    For example.

    "I have an idea for this story. It's going to be about this genius kindergartener who grows up on a space station being trained to be the general to fight an alien invasion of Earth that's going to happen in the future. It's going to have this room where they float around in zero gravity playing war games, and it has this computer that shows this weird magical landscape that he escapes into when he wants. In the end the aliens don't invade Earth. The humans invade the alien world, and completely blow it up. Does this sound like a good idea? Should I write it?"

    Anybody recognize this book? Based on my description would you want me to write it? My point is Just write the story. You don't need us to validate your plot idea.

    P.S. Don't even get me started on the aliens that kill you and plant trees in your chest because they like you.

    Sorry maia, I don't want to hijack your thread. *evil laugh*
     
  23. Fluxhavok
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    Fluxhavok Active Member

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    what's this about aliens that kill you and plant trees in your chest because they like you?


    lolz, couldn't resist...
     
  24. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    CDRW,

    First: Yep, I recognize Card's story ;)

    Second, if the writer wasn't asking for ideas (in Mammamaia's original question in this thread), but asking if this would work...I might be more tempted to answer, if they were attempting to form it into a professional pitch.

    Often when the writer posts their description, and others comment, there is that "Yeah, but..." response to comments and suggestions. Part of it is due to the fact that they cannot place every element of plot and character into the 3 paragraph description (I don't even scan those that are more than a screen long), part of it is due to poorly describing the vision or idea for their novel, and part of it, I really feel, is that they just want folks on the forum to tell them it's a wonderful idea, patting them on the virtual back.

    As Cogito and so many others, such as CDRW just pointed out, the writer needs to execute the idea...write the novel, edit and refine and polish it. Then work on the pitch.

    I realize some may quibble about when a pitch should be created. Nonfiction is a bit different than fiction. And for fiction, if you're a seasoned pro with a number of successful novels under your belt, then a pitch or proposal--and publisher acceptance--can come before the actual writing. Those situations, however, are not how it tends to happen here on this forum. It is an aspiring writer, considering a first project that poses the question.

    Terry
     
  25. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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    Oh my, a joking comment by me (I had hoped the smiley would indicate that it was a joke) is semi-responsible for a thread derailment *shifty eyes*

    I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud ;)

    ~Christian
     

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