by Deren Hansen
I've encouraged you not to stop with one good idea.
Implicit in that advice was the assumption that you started with a good
idea. Being certain that you have a good idea is much harder than
recognizing when your idea falls short of good.
The first litmus test for a poor idea is simple: is it your first idea?
In the game show Family Feud,
the challenge wasn't to come up with the correct answer but to guess
the answers most likely to be given by the hundred people surveyed. Of
the four or five hidden answers, the top one or two usually account for
more than half the responses. That is, the first answer that came to
mind for a person taking the survey likely came to mind to every second
or third person taking the survey.
As we've often
observed, 'novel,' means, 'new.' If you go with your first idea, you
stand a good chance of going down a well-worn path. If you want to be a
novelist, you must internalize Monty Python's catch phrase, "And now for something completely different."
this isn't novelty simply for novelty's sake. The deeper question is
how can you take the raw conceptual material and make it your own.
are, your first idea really isn't your idea. (Why, after all, did so
many of the people surveyed for the game show come up with the same
answer?) It's simply the first association that bubbled up into your
consciousness. The first association is likely the strongest, having
been reinforced by external influences. To make the idea your own, you
need to let it steep in your unique soup of mental associations until it
morphs into something that's unmistakably you.
Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.