Your ideas are probably awesome. In fact, I believe each of us has good taste in our own little way. Even if you like Justin Bieber and Fifty Shades of Grey, you know what sells because you like what sells.
My point is: you probably have a very good idea cooking in your mind, an amazing story, a truly resonating piece. One that people would like. So when you deliver it as black and white words on a piece of paper, why aren’t people as psyched as you thought they’d be?
Delivery, my friend.
We’ve all heard of the phrase “good idea, bad execution.” The movie In Time is an example that comes to mind: great futuristic concept? Check. Kept me awake throughout the movie? Um, not really.
There are also franchises that don’t have the most innovative idea, but execute their story really well. In fact, most great franchises come from very simple ideas. Take The Walking Dead. Premise: zombies take over. Dead simple (pardon the pun). But what the show really runs on – how it executes – is character development and exploring what it is that keeps us human.
(In some rare cases, an idea is all you need. Inception, for example – the idea was basically the execution which was basically awesomeness itself.)
But say you have a great idea and it’s not strong enough to stand on its own. You’re not sure how to deliver it. In this case, slow down, step back, and do some brainstorming. I like to ask myself some questions first before putting any word to paper.
1. What about the idea resonates with you personally?
Ideas are dry unless there’s some sort of meaning to them. And the best way to inject true, authentic, genuine meaning is to draw from your own experience and ideas. There’s nothing more relatable and real than real life itself. Ask yourself: what is something you can give to your idea? To make it stronger?
2. What about the idea resonates with your audience?
We all share a common human consciousness. We all experience feelings of loneliness, frustration, and insecurity, for example. A reason why we love stories is we want relatable heroes who also feel these feelings of loneliness, frustration, and lack of confidence. What is something your story can give to its audience? To make it stronger? To make the audience stronger?
3. What are ways to make your idea sleek, stylish, and “fresh”?
This isn’t the same thing as “trendy.” If the trendy thing right now is to have kings born of incest (akem, Game of Thrones), you don’t have to do that. But keep your story fresh by relating it to the current generation, to what we value and what we ache to see and feel. Even if it’s set in Medieval England, make your story relatable to what we look for today. Or, give a familiar premise a unique twist.
4. What is the “look and feel” you want to evoke? This will determine the tone you choose.
This is related to the fresh thing. Where I work in communications and marketing we talk a lot about “look and feel” in regards to websites. Apple wants you to feel sleek, casual, but efficient. Barnes & Nobles wants you to feel like you’re cozying up to your favourite book.
You’ve got to choose and carefully set a good tone – the right tone – because tone permeates everything and sets the mood. A sitcom or a drama or a dramedy could have a similar, or even the same, story. It’s the tone that makes the difference.
5. What is your Big Idea? How can this be a powerful idea?
For this last question: think big. Think as if you could change the world. What is it that you want to get across with your story? What is it you want to tell the world? Why are you telling your story and what do you want it to effect?
Yes, these questions are pretty high level, and I don’t expect anyone to specifically nail them explicitly in their story. Instead, tuck your answers to these questions into your back pocket and slip them in your story here and there. These big ideas should be nowhere and everywhere.
These are just my personal questions, but I do hope they’ve inspired you to think a certain way. How do you tackle the problem of delivery, and make sure your story is read the way you want it to be read?