Thursday, August 7, 2014

THE SIMPLEST IDEA

Something that comes up in writer's groups and discussions of writing quite often is wondering whether an idea is any good.  People will pitch their concept for a book or idea for a story and ask "is that any good, can it work?"

My answer always will be the same: if you write it well then yes.  Write an interesting story with a compelling plot, create memorable characters and develop them well, write effective dialog and imagination-capturing description and craft a professional and engaging story and you've got a winner.

Its not the idea that is the key here.  Any idea can be a good story, or a bad one.  Look back at the greatest books of all time and their basic storyline, pared down to its minimum:
  • Romeo and Juliet: two people whose parents hate each other fall in love. 
  • A Tale of Two Cities: trying to survive a change in government. 
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: a boy growing up in the south 
  • The Lord of the Rings: A quest to destroy a powerful item 
  • Moby Dick: a man seeks revenge on a whale
  • The Grapes of Wrath: A family flees drought to California
  • 1984: A man falls afoul of the government
And so on. 

The basic ideas are incredibly simple. They've been used a million times. Even silly but entertaining stuff like Die Hard seem complex until you strip away the story and the characters to the raw plot: a cop stops a robbery. Its what you write and how, its how you develop the characters and what the other subplots you weave in, its how you tell the story that matters. Any idea can work if you are a capable writer who delivers your ideas creatively and compellingly.

Zis one vill be great, trust me!
On the other hand, any idea can be awful if you can't write it well.  Watch any Uwe Boll movie for how a good idea with capable actors and a big budget can be painfully awful.  The idea in and of its self is nothing more than an idea.  Its not even a plot, its a sketch that you build a plot around.  Its not a story, its the thing that basically happens when you tell your story.

So no, there are no bad ideas.  Just ideas handled badly.