That One Idea

You ever had an idea you just weren’t sure you should share?

I don’t mean anything “untoward” necessarily, just something you’re not sure is ready for public consumption. Maybe it’s because the idea is not fully formed yet. Maybe it deals with a tough subject matter. Or maybe it’s about something you’re just not mature enough to talk about yet.

I have several story ideas that are like this. You wouldn’t know it from my public image, but I can have a dark and whimsical sense of humor. I’m a particular fan of contrasts like the one at the end of Dr. Strangelove, the whole world is blowing up and we’re listening to pleasant music. Or nastiness wrapped in cuteness, like the girl in Kick-Ass (a hard movie to watch sometimes, but AWFULLY funny).

We all can think of weird things. Mystery writers by their very nature have to come up with creative ways for people to die. Science fiction writers can come up with strange alien creatures too disgusting to behold.

How do you know if an idea is worth sharing or whether it’s something best kept to yourself?

Well with writing I apply a quick “standards” test:

1) Is the idea advancing the story, presenting a new kind of character or encapsulating an idea in a new way?

2) Will I let my mother read it? How about my wife? Or Pastor?

3) Do I want this to be the idea that makes me famous? Everyone remembers me for flesh eating zombie drag queen ghostbusters.

4) Am I doing it to be shocking? Is it actually shocking or just shocking that I’m doing it?

5) Is it better as a standalone idea, or part of a larger whole?

This last is something with one of my longstanding nagging ideas, something I’ve decided to add to the sequel to the rough draft I finished last year (so maybe 2015 guys, sorry). I’d developed it my head for a long time on its own, but it didn’t have a complete arc, but as a dream within in a dream, or an alternate origin story, NOW we’re talkin’.

I tend to think few ideas are BAD, just some are not fully germinated. I have a feeling most of the greats had dozens of other ideas that were floating in their head that never quite made it to the page. The ones that stay are the ones perhaps worth pursuing. And the ones that leave, well, we all think about Ronald Reagan Robot Rescue Rangers Reading Rainbow from time to time.

But you don’t have to take MY word for it.

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