May. 26th, 2017

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I love the wild and crazy tumblr story idea posts as much as anyone (this is one example of the phenomenon. there are a lot of others, a whole series of them about humans and how they interact with or are perceived by aliens), but I think they demonstrate something writers have been saying for a long time.

Ideas are the easy part.

These posts are almost all series' of quick sketches of really amazing ideas. Vignettes get written, and they're good. But they remain vignettes.

Take the example above.

Someone posits a silly idea. Someone else writes the opening scene - frankly, it can stand against some published short stories and a solid short story in its own right. (Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer is actually a similar story, a bit more polished and with more of an arc, but proving it can be done.) Someone draws a cartoon.

Someone else then says "I would watch six seasons and a movie."

Note the wording, though.

I would WATCH.

(no suggestion of "Can I help you guys turn this into...". Please note, this is not a bad thing of itself. We want watchers and readers. We love people who witness our art. The more the merrier. And this is true even when the art is unpaid stuff for fun.)

The next person sketches out a paragraph of the town's initial reaction, and a one-line thought for one story arc... in the fourth season.

The next person similarly posts a summary of some of the details that could become scenes throughout, then another story arc.

The last two people who post ideas, not reactions, post an extended plot summary of the final episode, and scripted dialogue for the last minute of that episode, respectively.

Arc done. Whole six seasons of a tv show (With a spin-off movie in the middle, presumably, since the ending is, er, final) in 2,832 words -- 1,410 or very very close to half of which is the opening scene written out by one contributor.

THAT is how easy it is to come by an amazing writing IDEA.

I'm not dissing these ficlets. Please understand. I adore them. I want people to keep spawning these ideas all over the place. I want to see them in comment threads discussing why a particular book was good, or bad, or deconstructing them. I want to see them tossed out under a photo or a piece of art or fanart someone particularly liked. I want them to pop up all over facebook, tumblr, anywhere else people make and collect random story ideas. I've thrown one up myself in the comments to a review of the Disney movie Rapunzel, though rightly speaking that was more of a plot sketch for a fanfic, not for an original story like many of them (Although i love and encourage direct fanfic, too. And formal written short fiction.)

And as I understand it, if you happened to meet such a fic in tumblr via a different person, you might see a different thread of responses, spawning another sketch-out of the same kind of six-season arc, with a different ending, different suggestions for scenes along the way.

But... six seasons of a tv show is a sustained effort. A different thing entirely. Multiple writers throwing out these ideas across a table in front of critics and executives, and then expected to come back with a polished and perfectly 42-minute-long script (with the right commercial breaks) out of their one-line sketch, which also needs to be added to and accounted for in continuity by every writer after them, just as they had to account for every script ahead of them AND the already agreed upon seasonal arc. The existance of tv producing forms that no longer have to leave room for commercials leaves wiggle room for exactly how to set up the arc and the exact length of an episode, but audience expectations still hold a writer within a fairly short distance both of ultimate length and of where to fit in plot points and reversals and beats.

And that? That is exhausting. Because if you're the one tasked with introducing Nettie's birth family (And the true fate of the real Todd) into the business, based on the equivalent of somebody's (Even your own!) one-paragraph tumblr comment, you have a lot to think about that simply isn't in that paragraph, which the reader of that paragraph can create for themselves in a flash. You now have to set out every single breath of what's in your head in concrete terms for everyone from the actors to the lighting crew to the set designers to the wardrobe crew to the storyboard artist turning your ideas into each and every camera shot and exact actor's mark on the carpet.

This is why "I've got this great idea, you just have to write it, and we split it 50-50..." is so nauseating for writers. We see those ficlets, and we love them, and we rejoice at people who would not call themselves writers tossing out yet another new idea into the mix, and making everyone squee. But there's a noteable difference between that and ongoing sustained effort. And now we can point to tumblr and say, "Look. If I want ideas from outside myself, I have a literal thousand to choose from. Why do I need yours?"
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* One of my current novel ideas is spawned by a series of posts deconstructing another popular book, AND by the commentary and mini-fanfics and fix-fics caused by that deconstruction. I really really enjoy these things.

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lenora_rose

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