Ideas and Creating Dramatic Fiction from Them
By Joy Cagil
In philosophy, two views exist on where the ideas originate. One view claims that ideas live in a separate realm that give rise to what is called innate ideas; the other view insists we get our ideas from life experiences. Both views may have a say in our writing life.
According to our standard understanding and sometimes our wishful thinking, ideas come to us writers spontaneously; however, ideas may also come as derivatives of other ideas or whatever enters the mind at a given moment. Once an idea enters the mind, it triggers other concepts that are connected and similar.
Everything starts with an idea. Each piece of writing starts with an idea. If the idea behind a story is attractive, the editors will welcome its proposal, and most importantly, when the story or the script is written, that attractive idea will keep the readers reading.
What makes any idea attractive, then?
A contradiction emerges in the answer. The idea has to be original and attention getting; yet, it must be familiar. Finding an idea both original and familiar sounds like a paradox; however, these two oppositions can be made to work together to benefit the writer.
Let us look at an example. People, five years of age or older, are acquainted with the idea of dinosaurs. Yet, an amusement park exhibiting certain genetically recreated dinosaur species is an original idea. Add to this a few assisting ideas in most anyone's experience like a badly managed park, grandfather touring a park with his grandchildren, and two rival genetic engineering companies, you have the successful Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.
When we look at this story's example more carefully, we see that Jurassic Park's originality is its more powerful side. Its familiarity increases when other concepts support it as the story progresses.
Thus, while creating a story from an idea, we need to push the spotlight on the stronger, original side of the idea, so the focus of the story does not waver. In other words, we do not put two, three, or more equally original aspects into one idea. The risk in introducing too much originality into one story idea can lose us the reader's attention or tire and confuse him.
Second part of the answer to what makes an idea attractive lurks within the idea. It is the implication of conflict with an immediate appeal to a reader. In the amusement park's cloned dinosaurs idea, the conflict is implied inside the idea with the dinosaurs becoming a menace and threatening the world.
For that reason, once an idea comes to us, we must look for the implied conflict in it. Then, we can develop that conflict further, because strong conflict always shows up with drama. When the conflict is vague, the story may end up sounding wishy-washy. A clear conflict will lead to a successful story, because the readers will want to find out how the conflict will be resolved.
Inside the same idea, should the writer not see the conflict at first sight, he can look if any characters are already there. Then, the make-up of the characters can create the conflict, and consequently, the drama. The Harry Potter books probably started with the idea of "a teenage wizard in school." Thus, the teenage wizard's character and the supporting characters around him developed the conflict that led to the drama.
To sum it up, to create dramatic fiction, first write down the idea in one sentence, and make sure the idea is original, yet at the same time, familiar. Next, make sure the conflict is implied in that sentence, either directly or through the characters. Afterwards, develop the characters who can successfully carry out the story.
May all your ideas produce dramatic stories.