Tag Archives: ideas

Your Ideas Aren’t That Interesting

I know, I know, why isn’t this original? For the second week in a row? Well, two things. First, this guy (drat him) has done it again. This link goes to a marvelous article!

Second, when you’re done with his marvelous article, come back here and you’ll find my commentary on the same following below. So, neener neener, it is original after all! Take that, doubters!

I know. I know. Already I feel you pulling away. I sense you tensing up, like a flicked sphincter. You’re mad. I can see you’re mad. I get it, you have ideas, and ideas are the backbone…

Source: Your Ideas Aren’t That Interesting

See what I mean? Sure, he can be crude, but damitol (a generic mood improving drug, you know) he’s sharp as a tack. And, if you ever sat on a tack in first grade, you know that those things are sharp!

What Chuck writes about (I’ve never met him, but I call him Chuck here, ’cause what’s he gonna do about it? It is his name!) is the fact that our ideas are just ideas. I’ve read that there are only nine plots, really. Or even five. Or even only one plot. You know the drill. Some ordinary person gets thrown into a set of ever wilder circumstances. They try a solution that makes it worse, and again, and again, until, well, you know. What makes you unique is how you relate that plot. The characters, are they compelling? The danger, is it high enough? The stakes, are they worth the trouble? You know all that, so I’m not going to belabor (belabour?) the point. Just pick a plot and run with it. Remember your tropes. Have fun!

What struck me about saying that our ideas are not that interesting is that it is a good reason why you should not worry about somebody stealing your latest story if you happen to show it around, and becoming rich off of it. For one thing, I doubt if you need more than your fingers and a few toes to count the total number of rich authors in the world. For another, it’s mediocre. How do I know? For all the reasons Chuck <grin> lists. And, remember, ideas are not copyrightable, so if you do see something similar, it’s because ideas tend to be “in the air” at various times, and nothing more. There are not a lot of instances of actual plagiarism, or story stealing if you will, in a typical year. The trick, like Chuck says, is to work your particular version of magic on the ideas and make the story wonderful.

Easy-Peasy, huh?


This is the tree that blew down in a storm last year. It was a Giant Sequoia in a California State Park.
This is the tree that made the news when it blew down in a storm last year. It was a Giant Sequoia in a California State Park.

If you tell people that you’re a writer, soon or later you’ll be asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Fair question, I suppose. My cynical answer is simply that “I use my brain, fool!” I have never used my cynical answer, because, amongst other things, I write things that I hope to sell, and having people thinking you’re a wise-ass might tend to drive them away. But, as this is a post intended for writers, I’ll tell you where mine come from. It’s encouraging, for people like me, at least.

I daydream a lot. Almost all of my teachers, even ones teaching writing, seemed to agree that daydreaming is a bad idea. An idea you shouldn’t embrace, that is. And it is a bad idea, if your goal is to stay firmly attached to this world at all times. Somehow, though, the advice of “live in the present moment” ignores the fact that the present moment can be boring as Hell. Yet, I do agree that being anxious is living in the future, and anxiety is bad, and being depressed is living in the past, and depression is bad, too. So, the present moment is what is left for us to live in. Except for that boring part, I agree wholeheartedly.

But, there is a place that is not in the future, not in the past, but still not exactly in the present moment. And that place is daydreams. When I daydream I’m not anxious, nor am I depressed. I’m present in whatever I’m dreaming up. So, it’s perfect, in that I can stay firmly rooted in the present moment, and ignore the world at the same time! Writing stories is the perfect career for someone who likes to daydream! So, if you’re a writer, I’ll bet you enjoy getting lost in your own imagination, don’t you? That world is a hoot, a gas, the bees’ knees, a helluva lot nicer than the one in front of your eyes, at least most of the time. So, when something you see or hear or experience triggers a story idea, you have a place where you can go to explore that idea and see if you can make a world out of it. Take that, boring teachers! Stick that in your Roberts Rules, Madame Chairwoman! Ha! I can escape you all!

And, maybe, with hard work and diligence, I can get you all to buy a copy of what I dream up. Wouldn’t that be swell, though?

Later. Right now I have someplace to be.


Where do your ideas come from?

Somebody asked me that a couple of weeks ago on a boat to Isla San Jorge off of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. That was right after I told him what I did for a job.

And it’s a good question, because I honestly don’t know. But I get them. And the world is absolutely crawling with sources for new ones. I’ve mentioned how I steal plot set-ups from a certain English playwright at times. That’s one way. Then there is simply paying attention when I’m in a group of people. I mean, everybody is the hero of their own movie, right? So, by observing people being themselves, I can get in on some of the plots.

Then there’s the simple “what if?” As in “What if Superman was having sex with Lois Lane and crushed her by mistake?” Or maybe “What if your junior high principal really was a demon from another dimension? What? You never thought that about your junior high principal? Liar!

So what I say is that middle bit, that the world is full of story ideas, which is true. But, you know, honestly, sometimes I think some devil does give me ideas. Like that demon from another dimension thing? Who’d ever believe that?

Besides every Junior High student in the country, I mean.

Ideas for New Books

*** Before I begin, if you haven’t been following my friends on their sail around the world, you’re missing out on some great stories and photography. Check them out at oddgodfrey.com, or follow the links that I repost here. ***

Over the weekend I started notes for a new Young Adult novel. I’m not going to mention what it is, because frankly I have no idea if it will ever get written. It’s a good idea, though. One thing writers get asked is, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” Well, in some cases there isn’t really any choice: the idea smacks the writer in the face like the alien in Alien, and there it is. But for most of us that doesn’t happen very often.

One  technique that works for commercial fiction (I can’t help you if your an an artiste who is out to expose the world for what it truly is) is to steal plot ideas. I don’t mean entire plots, but the underlying dilemma that sets the plot off to the races. Shakespeare did that all the time, so I don’t feel even a little bit guilty about doing the same thing. In fact, lots of people grab plot ideas from old Will, and often they work fine. The trick is to not try to duplicate the original author’s storyline, or voice. Rather you take the original premise and run with it.

For instance, how about “Seventeen-year old’s father is murdered by his uncle and the kid finds out.” What happens next? You’re the author, you tell us, but for sure don’t make him a Prince of Denmark in Elsinore Castle. The world has perfectly adequate experience with medieval Danish princes, thank you very much. But you see, there is a plot starting point right there.

Remember, that’s just what Shakespeare would do. Now, if you can write as well as he did . . .