The foundation of any great literary work, or any work in general, are the four basic concepts: Idea, Determination, Approach and Self-Confidence. Without these four settling properly inside the creator (getting a bit general), a piece of work can be done but it shouldn’t be expected to set new standards.
I cannot help directly with determination as the struggles of each person is unique. I can, and will, provide encouragements via questions that would help you to reinforce your need to stick to what you plan. Self-confidence is also a similar issue. No one can gift you instant self-confidence (though new clothes do help) but we can always encourage each other. The path to achieving these two is hard but isn’t impossible. It just takes time. I will, however, not let all things be left in the ‘I-can’t-teach-you-this’ category and help you with the remaining two: Idea and Approach.
You are probably wondering what would make only these four as the basic requirements. Idea is the soul of any piece of work. You cannot give life and distinction to your work if you don’t have a clear idea of what you mind truly desires. Idea thus forms the basic first step of any work.
Then there is the Determination. Every single person on the planet is bombarded with thousands of untried and unheard of ideas during their stay on this world. The reason most, if not all, never materialize is that sometimes the one who receives these ideas isn’t determined enough to follow up on them. It doesn’t matter that you have an idea for curing cancer if you never even try to follow up on it. Ideas, when left alone, are the things with shortest life-span that fade back into nothingness if they remain hidden within.
The third is the Approach. Even if you have an idea and are determined to try it, the results would rarely be satisfactory if you don’t know how to approach. Even worse, a wrong approach could kill the idea completely. And by just having the idea and being determined to work on it but not doing anything for this would not be fruitful either. Determination only increases the life-span of the idea. It doesn’t make it permanent. It is the fourth component, Self-confidence, which helps in this issue.
Self-confidence is a very powerful motivator and can be the best encouragement to complete any piece of work, no matter how dull, that you have to deal with. It helps make the structure of the other three concepts a lot more safe and stable. With self-confidence, we don’t lose hope or the idea ever and stay determined on our goal while trying the different approaches. Ultimately, it all boils down to how much you believe in yourself.
These are the four foundation concepts of making any work great (being read is a different matter though). Remember though, that practice and patience – as referenced in last post – are the cement and bricks to establish yourself. So don’t ignore them either. We will cover Approach later. We shall begin with the Idea.
As I mentioned, a person in average gets struck with thousands of new ideas. Most of them die out instantly but few are so powerful that they stick through longer. It all depends on the simple question: Why is it different from the rest? The simple excuses like because it’s mine or because it is already a success story doesn’t qualify in this. The answer has to be so powerful that you can defend the idea to anyone who will dare to question your determination to write. And know this, people will question you. So you need to be prepared. As a hint of how to answer the above question, I recommend asking yourself that why is it unique to you? No one wants to read a droll piece of work about an ordinary man but modify the whole concept into a different manner – like the summary is full of humorous comments or there is a subtle hint of something more behind the façade of ordinary man – and the general idea becomes unique. You need to find this unique idea for yourself to truly start. My best advice would be to read others’ works. Stories have the interesting quality of having each scene filled with thousands of cross-roads that won’t be taken and are, hence, open for you to taking.
For example, there is a scene of husband and wife arguing in the kitchen.
If your mind is already running with thousands of questions, then congratulations, you just understood my point. You need to skip the following paragraph. If you didn’t, please read further.
The scene is of husband and wife arguing. Why are they arguing? Was it infidelity? Or just emotional distance? Or is it a product of some darker emotions? When are they arguing? At breakfast? Dinner? Afternoon? They are arguing in the kitchen. Why kitchen? Why couldn’t they argue somewhere else? Did something in the kitchen start it all? Is something bad, like one of them hitting the other with utensils or even murdering in a fit of rage, going to happen? You see, there are only twelve words after the words ‘for example’ but they are enough to raise lots of questions. I have pointed out some sample questions and I haven’t even started on the idea of those who might be in the house with them or be able to hear them argue. So you see that there are cross-roads that will lead to one of the many possibilities. We can just use the other, but equally realistic, path for our own inspiration as well.
A famous and effective method of creating ideas is the ‘What if…’ game. It simply involves one partner providing a single scene, be it from a movie, book, real-life or just an imagined one, and the two analyse the situation in detail. The aim is to uncover as much as you can about the need for that scene to happen. An example of such scene would be of two childhood friends sword-fighting to death. You can play this alone as well if you want. There are no restrictions.
There was a small point I made before but I didn’t elaborate on. I made it clear that you cannot claim that an idea is special to you because someone else made a successful living based on works with the identical idea. This plagiarism, though useful when making an uninteresting history report on ‘European Voyages of Exploration’, is not at all acceptable in this situation. In fact, it would backfire on you and get you marked as a thief. This would make you be permanently black-listed in writers’ groups and that is something none of us ever want. Accidental copying? It happens. As soon as you know, contact the person you copied and explain your accident while pointing out some of the differences in ideas you have with the one in the original story.
To summarize, ideas are aplenty in the world and no one can really say that there is nothing left to discover. It only requires a proper mind-set. But no cheating or stealing other’s works. Just make sure that the idea you choose to write on is a very good (and preferably unique) one because the work may take a lot of time only for you to end up disillusioned with the things that hooked you in the beginning. But the idea alone isn’t everything. As I mentioned in the beginning, the other three concepts also play an important role.
So tell me, do you have an idea that stuck with you? How did you get it?