Nothing can start without an idea. Movies do not just get made magically. Novels do not get written in an afternoon. It all starts with an idea. We all have them daily. These trivial things will pop into our head and mostly pop back out just as quickly. It is what you do with these ideas that matters.
Each project I have worked on has started the same way – from that idea. The difference is HOW the idea is generated. Sometimes it is in a dream (always keep my notebook by my bed), other times it hits me in the car, at the grocery store, working out. But other times, I must get them going on my own without any divine intervention. That is when the challenge arrives.
How do you generate an idea?
Sounds weird but it is hard. Well, let me rephrase that. How do you generate a GOOD idea? THAT’S what is hard. Any schlub can use their mind to think. It takes truly little brainpower or time. But to think of something that can excite someone else or to get them interested is something else.
Not all ideas are the best. Some really suck. But that is ok. IF you are willing to go through many ideas to get that one good one. It is said that every artist has done a thousand horrible drawings to get that one great one. Edison tested out many different elements before finding that one that burned correctly to create light. It is a lot of crap to get through, honestly.
That is the hard part of getting that idea going. Driving through the slop as I like to say it. If you want to get it, you must do it.
OK, so knowing that it takes a lot of bad ideas to get the good one is one thing. How do you get those ideas (even bad ones)? There are a few things I do. One is look around. Check out the room. Check out the people around you. Go to a mall, an airport, any place with a lot of people and observe. Everyone has their own story. I like to make mine up seeing a couple walking. Be careful here though…do not observe someone TOO long. You could get arrested for ogling. NOT that that has ever happened to me. The charges were dropped.
Sometimes that does not always do it though. No, not the arrested part; the observing part. Stories are driven by conflict. The more conflict the better. It can be a problem with the plot or better yet it could be with adversarial characters. Especially if those characters are in DIRECT conflict – characters that have NO business to be together. One example I give is a priest and a reformed hooker inherit a business. Is that a great idea? Boy, I hope not. BUT the point is they are directly opposite of each other. This creates immediate conflict. It creates immediate story.
Now here is another thing to think about when it comes to getting ideas. This idea of the priest and hooker is not the best idea but it may spawn something else. The hooker becomes a mob boss. Now it becomes a little more appealing. The business is a restaurant or something else. The point is one thought can beget another idea, hopefully making it better.
These ideas should come out like a waterfall. TONS of ideas should flow. Who cares if they are great or even relatively good? Most will be bland or even horrible. That is ok. I think that is the point, honestly. It gets the brain thinking and takes that governor off being too timid. It just lets it flow. When this happens, chances are something special can come out. You must get to this point. You must push yourself to get to this. Tons of silly ideas can get that one good one.
It is so easy yet sooooo hard.