1. Chase
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    Chase New Member

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    what is a "good" idea?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Chase, Sep 9, 2009.

    I know this has probably been discussed to death, but I'm always one for resurrection...

    It goes without saying that you have to like what you're writing and should be genuinely interested in the material. However, anyone can see the mountains of material available to help writing craft an idea from something raw into something "good". For some reason I cannot seem to find that happy medium between my personal tastes and a quality idea. I've started dozens of novels, scripts, and stories but find in the end that base idea just wasn't good enough.

    my question is: how did you decide that the story you were writing was a good idea?
     
  2. Manolius
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    Manolius New Member

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    Anything can be a "good idea" or a bad one, it depends more on how you execute them (writing style, pacing, etc.) A "good" idea for me would be something that lets you explore the character, plot, themes, go further and see where it takes you, and if you are finding that your writing isn't coming in a natural way, maybe it's not a "good idea" for you.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it excites and intrigues you, it's a good idea.

    The idea for a piece of writing isn't all that important. What matters is how you develop it into a piece of writing. A good writer can take an idea like "Jack walks to the mailbox and retrieves his mail," and turn it into a good story. It probably won't expand well into a novel, but it could be a great short story.

    Maybe Jack is agoropjobic, and that short trip is viscerally terrifying. That simple chore could become a major personal triumph. Or Jack could be a hapless klutz, and his hilarious misadventure to get the mail could have readers rolling on the floor.

    The point is, don't sweat the idea. If you see a story in it, write it up. It may require a little work, or a lot, but as long as you see a story there, you can work with it.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'll second what Cog and add this: whatever you feel is worth writing about qualifies as a good idea.
     
  5. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Execution means much more than idea.

    In the comic book world, the worst idea of all actually turned out to be one of the best comic books of my youth: The Silver Surfer. Great comic--but a super-powered surfer who flies around on a surfboard? One of the dumbest ideas ever.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is going to start of as seeming randomness. I promise to swing it around in the end to address the OP's question.

    I have read many posts here at the forum concerning characters that don't do what you want them to or what to do when your characters surprise you and invariably I think to myself, "Poor thing. Someone is not taking their meds as they should."

    You often find responses in these same threads to the tune of I control everything going on in my story. I am emperor of the page and pen! and invariably I think to myself, "Poor thing. Someone is not taking their meds as they should."

    I think a good idea is born at the midway point between these two states of insanity.

    Be open to the idea that the novel you are writing is not a novel. It is a short story. Be open to the idea that the short story you have finished and leaves you less than satisfied may well be a novel if you just fed it and watered it a bit more. Be open to the idea that you may think you have three stories going at the same time, separate and independent one from the other, but that in fact you are wrong. You actually have three different parts to one story that just haven't realized they are related one to the other.

    Never ever, ever, ever, ever throw anything away.

    Unfinished, malformed, seemingly non-viable stories have a way of finding new healthy, vibrant life when you least expect it.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Agreed 100%. I used to make the mistake of throwing out old stuff. Now I keep everything I write, no matter how bad it seems. It can always be revised. Plus, writing is a learning process. It's good to keep older writings to see how much progress you have made.
     
  8. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I know I’ll ruffle some feathers, but a good idea is just that: a good idea. It’s like the light bulb. Hey nice one, man. I can see! Stories have evolved, threaded itself through human history just like inventions. We take previous ideas and try to come up with something new. If you take the same old storyline you hear repeated all the time, but you put a little slant on it, nothing drastic, then you have a good idea. Executing the idea is the hard part. So sharpen your axe.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    any idea can be either a 'good' one, or a 'bad' one, depending on what you do with it...

    or, conversely, there's no such thing as a good or bad idea... there's only 'ideas' period... what you do with them is what has value...
     
  10. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    It always depends on how you write it...

    Here's an idea: a day at work. I'm a cashier. Sounds lame and boring. But it depends on how I write it, doesn't it?
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Of course.

    Two movies got made on pretty much this premise alone: Mallrats and Clerks. ;)
     
  12. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    After I became a world-wide known writer and won millions. No, really... :D
     
  13. Chase
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    Chase New Member

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    thanks everyone for your speedy replies. I've never been on a forum that has had so many people respond so quickly!

    The consensus seems to be any idea is a good one so long as it's written well. DragonGrim's comment about sharpening the axe hit particularly close to home: maybe the problem isn't the idea but my inability to take it and craft it into a finished piece. I can definitely see merit in that. If i spend all my time starting new pieces I never get the practice from finishing one. Wreybies is also completely correct in saying things shouldn't be thrown away either. It's true. Dozens of my stories are just chopped pieces from previous works.

    ergo: i should get to work..
     
  14. Mcnally
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    Mcnally New Member

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    My 2c: if it touched me emotionally, it was an idea well executed. However, even the most brilliant idea cannot compensate for the journey that is emotionally barren.
     
  15. OpposableThumbsBoy
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    OpposableThumbsBoy New Member

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    Others have already said the most important bit—the execution trumps the idea.

    To add to that, though, I would say that—at least for me—in order to execute your idea properly, you have to really love it. If you wouldn't want to read what you've written, you're not doing it right.
     
  16. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Does it entertain the audience?
     
  17. TheHedgehog
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    TheHedgehog Contributing Member Contributor

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    The most interesting stories I've read are the ones with ideas I wish I would have thought of. As long as it's original and done well, and creative. If you make me jealous of your idea, you probably did it right.
     
  18. p.sawyer
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    p.sawyer Member

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    personally, i prefer bad ideas. who has ever learnt anything from a good idea?​
     
  19. AmandaC
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    AmandaC Member

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    Some times how you tell a story is more important that the story itself. If I'm not sure about something I'm writing I'll focus on my writing style. I focus on the senses or emotion, trying to make the reader feel something specific. Make it about the journey.
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Touché!
     
  21. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Basically, what everyone else already said.

    Just look at Jurassic park.

    "A bunch of cloned dinosaurs escape from an electronically crashed park and eat people."


    All about style and execution. Suspense, characterization and good CGI. Er, I mean, writing.
     
  22. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    I love repeating everyone else lol.

    Every idea has the POTENTIAL to be good or bad. The thing that matters is the writer who then takes that idea and puts it on paper.

    I think in your case the problem is you're maybe trying to make your ideas into novels when that may not be the best size. All of my ideas fit easily onto a max of 5 pages, and I don't try stretching them out. In fact, I don't worry about page count at all. I just write until I stop, then I fix it up, see what works and what doesn't, etc.

    Nate
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that may be fine in life, but in writing, the writer isn't looking to 'learn' anything from his/her ideas, but only to make a story or a book out of them...

    and besides, how can you say no one has ever learned anything from a good idea?... we'd all still be living in caves and painting our stories on the walls, if no one had...

    in fact, we wouldn't even be painting our stories on the walls, for others to 'learn from' if no one had come up with the good idea to do that!
     
  24. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sure it was meant humorously, that's how I took it anyway...

    As for the learning from your writing, I disagree. I've heard many writers say that they write not about what they understand but what they want to understand (in different wordings, respectively).
     
  25. p.sawyer
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    p.sawyer Member

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    it was meant in complete humour, and a loose reference to a film where a writer tells her students to take one of their really bad ideas and develop it. in the end one of the students ends up with a published novel out of it.

    i just think that way, i didn't mean it quite so literally. i tend to give things a go and risk things going completely wrong rather than never knowing and remaining the same.

    but all these great ideas probably started off as bad ideas. i'm sure that the mother cavewoman went ballistic at the little caveboy for drawing all over her clean walls at first.

    i do think there is potential to learn from every little thing that we do. not necessarily a huge life lesson, but perhaps in the discovery of a little part of ourselves we perhaps didn't know we had.​
     

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