We all have great ideas, or too many, or just one, the problem is how do you go about selecting an idea to work on. In this blog, Phil Parker, co-founder of BCre8ive, looks at the initial stages of developing an idea and how to make good choices. How do you know if your idea is a good one or not?
- Identify the idea
Is it a dramatic situation, a character’s problem, a setting, a subject , or a theme?
A dramatic situation is where something major will occur if some action or lack of action occurs e.g. the decision to end a relationship, start a war, or sometimes choose a fig. You are, therefore, looking for the consequences of an action to know if you have a dramatic situation or not.
A Character’s problem stems from having someone face a problem which is unique to them. It may be a common problem in life e.g. leaving home, being in debt, but it is unique in the way it potentially affects this character. This may arise because of their personality, the situation they find themselves in, or who they are related to.
A setting ranges from classic locations e.g. periods or events in history, to fantasy worlds and dystopian or utopian futures. However, setting can be more everyday – the family kitchen, the shambolic office, or a particular street or part of a city.
A subject is a broader collection of material, which may contain within it a series of events, a group of people, a particular event or place. The key is that all the material is connected by one central concern, a focus, which pulls all the material into a subject for development.
A theme is concerned with a central emotional core. A feeling, or concern, which underpins potential characters, actions, subjects etc. This is often seen as the big idea e.g. a fight for justice, the pursuit of love or a search for validation. All ideas, once developed, ultimately lead to a theme, but sometimes an idea starts here.
Having identified your starting point the question then is where do you want to end up?
“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- What type of idea is it?
Not all ideas can be used on all creative platforms. Some work best as photographs, some as drawings, some as videos, some as one offs, some as a series, some have obvious multi-platform potential others appear more likely to work initially only in one format.
In order to clarify the type of idea you are working on it is best to start looking at the various elements identified above, and combine them together, to see how the idea develops. This combination of elements will focus you more on the central thing/s which concern you. You may have to do some initial research, or discuss particular aspects of the idea with someone. It is this process which will start to tell you what type of idea this is, what type of creative work it might become, and critically whether or not you like it enough to keep pursuing it.
- What is the tone of the material?
All the material you have collected around you as you have developed all, or some, of the above elements will point to an overall tone. This is the emotional impact of the work in terms of its impression left on you, and potentially on your audience/s. Tone is a complex area of expression and sadly this blog does not have space to explore it fully. The key thing to understand with respect to tone when developing an idea is that as you review the material you have e.g. some notes, examples of texts, or visuals etc. where are they pointing in terms of tone?
Does this collection of material give you the inspiration for comedic, dramatic or tragic work? What are your own feelings about the material, and how you see the idea being reacted to by the people you think may be engaged by the idea? You may, of course, on realising that it is ‘too dark’ or ’too light’ for particular audiences change the tone of a work as you develop it, but rceognising the initaia tone is important in selecting an idea as it develops.
- Define the dramatic universe.
At this point in the process you will be in a position to devise/recognise the dramatic universe of your idea. The dramatic universe is the collection of key elements be they characters, events, setting, images – perhaps songs, poems, that belong together. If for any reason an element does not work with the other elements then either replace it, or adjust the element/s, until you feel they all belong with each other.
It is at this point you will be able to see not only the interrelationships between the elements but also their interdependence. If you alter one of them then you affect the overall impact of the idea you have developed. Of course, you may want to do this to make the idea more attractive to a particular audience or to fit a particular format.
Having undertaken all this work you can really assess your idea. Assessing a idea too early is a major mistake many creatives make, rejecting something before it has had time to grow, develop, into something substantial enough to be assessed.
“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.” Ed Catmull Creativity Inc.
- Selecting Your idea?
It is worth reviewing what you have in the light of what is already been produced. There may be ‘nothing new under the sun’ in terms of themes etc., but in terms of the particular dramatic universe you have created, and the particular work you are contemplating creating from it you are looking for the originality in the idea.
The first step is to review what you have created before – is the new idea sufficiently different to a. keep you interested; b. show other people a new side to your work.
The second is to review the most successful works which are like the ones you are contemplating from your idea. If you can see how the idea is original enough to stand out from the crowd on this basis then it is worth pursuing, if not either abandon it in favour of another, better idea, or change an element/s to make it stand out.
Once you have reached this stage you will have developed the idea to the point where you will be able to successfully assess whether or not you really want to pursue it and in what form, for which audience/s.
All the best with every idea you select, and remember your collaborators are as important as the idea.
Upload your latest idea to the bcre8ive website and see how it flies.