You and Your Dumb Ideas

A writer contacted me a couple of days ago to ask if I would read and critique a screenplay. In looking at his query letter, it was obvious to me for a host of reasons that making this particular movie would be a bad idea. No studio in Hollywood would touch it. The audience for the movie wasn’t large enough to support the cost of filming, and so on.

I could see approaches that we could take to change the idea and make it sellable, but his query stated quite clearly that he was hell-bent to take the idea and create something that was unsellable.

So I said, “Thank you, but no,” about as politely as I could. Sometimes there is just no way to tell someone something bad.

A wise writer would just take the bad news and deal with it. But this guy immediately blocked me and then went on Facebook to mock me and the person who recommended my services.

Oh well. Now he’s just confirmed to all of his friends that I think he’s an idiot. I tried not to tell him that, but the news is out.

However to be fair, though, story ideas are funny things. Often some of the dumbest ideas turn out to be timeless pieces, which is important to keep in mind.

I work in an industry where I write science fiction, fantasy, and horror. And do you know what? When I pitch my story to others, I can guarantee you that it will sound dumb.

In fact, the best ideas often sound the dumbest of all.

Imagine Frank Herbert: “My story is about giant worms who live in sand dunes on an alien planet. They have bad breath that is sort of laced with this LSD-like drug that lets you see into the future, and one young man even learns how to unlock his genetic memories so that he has all of the knowledge of all his ancestors, and he takes over the universe!”

Imagine Tolkien: “My story is about a little creature that is half goblin, half rabbit, who has this magic ring that gives him the power to rule the world!”

Imagine Shakespeare trying to greenlight “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: “My story is about a man who goes into dreamland and offends the fairies, so they turn him into an ass—and there’s these other three guys who have no imagination who are trying to win a playwriting competition with boring drivel, and they win, proving that boring material works better than anything else!”

Your story idea sounds dumb, too, if you’re writing speculative fiction. As a writer, you need to get comfortable with that.

The real artistry in our business comes from taking what sounds like a dumb idea and turning it into a story that’s magical, that sweeps the reader away and carries him or her to another world, a story that moves the reader so powerfully that they are forever changed by our work.

Dumb-sounding ideas often lead to powerful stories.

Sometimes it just takes the right person to take an idea and bring it to life. When I was 16, I began writing my first novel, called A Wizard in Half-Light. It was about a kid who goes to a magic school. I got twelve chapters into it and gave up after the hero used his vast magical powers to nuke the school in an effort to get rid of the bullies. Was the idea bad, or just the kid writing it? It took a J.K. Rowling to do the material justice.

If you have an idea and it sounds great to you, go for it. Maybe you’ll bring your own experience or special talents to the table and create something wondrous, something that the casual observer doesn’t see. Then even if people think it does sound like a dumb idea, you can prove them wrong. The whole process is really a catch-22.


Writing Workshops

The Writer’s Peak

Provo, Utah
Courtyard Marriott
1600 N. Freedom Blvd
Provo, UT 84064

Friday and Saturday, November 3rd and 4th

Bestselling authors typically have a few things in common. They know what they want to write, and they develop the skills needed to write efficiently.

But many new authors suffer from writer’s block (usually because they haven’t learned what they are doing yet), or they may bring unhealthy mindsets to the craft. Well, we can fix those problems!

In this course, New York Times Bestselling author David Farland will team up with neuro-linguistic programming instructor Forrest Wolverton to teach the skills you need in order to overcome writers’ block, write more effortlessly, rearrange your own priorities, and increase your productivity. The goal is to help you develop the tools that you need in order to become a super-productive writer, the kind who can complete multiple books per year and win the trust of publishers and fans.

We’ll cover such topics as

  • Designing a Career. Many writers waste years trying to figure out what to write. We’ll provide information so that you can decide now what career path you would like to pursue, and then set goals accordingly.
  • Moving from to apprehension to excitement. Have you lost your love of writing? We’ll teach you how to ground yourself in such a way that writing becomes more than effortless, it becomes something that you are eager to do!
  • Learn to set compelling goals that you will be driven to achieve.
  • Eliminate internal conflicts and self-sabotage that keep you stalled out.
  • Learn how the professional authors manage their mental and emotional state to write when they want to–and do it for yourself.
  • Take control of your motivation and direct it toward what you want.
  • Are you better at starting, maintaining, or finishing? Would you like to be able to do all three and get you stories out and finished?
  • Find out how to decrease the time it takes to find solutions for any task or challenge.
  • Learn how to effectively tell your stories by understanding plots, characterization.
  • Discover the secret to silencing your inner critic when it is sabotaging your work
  • Eliminate doubt about your future success.
  • Learn how to organize your mind like bestselling authors and get results fast.

This two-day workshop will cover all of this and more. Space will be limited to 20 students. Please bring something to take notes on and be prepared to change your life.

Register now for both days for $299, and get two additional online seminars (a $58 value) for free!

Writing Enchanting Prose

Dallas, Texas
Hampton Inn Dallas-North-I-35E At Walnut Hill 11069 Composite Drive, Dallas, TX 75229
September 25-29, 2017, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
10 Attendees Total

In this workshop we will work heavily on imbuing your prose with the richness and details that bring a story to life. The goal is to teach you how to fully transport readers as you take them on a journey that captivates their hearts and minds. David Farland will teach you how to totally transport you readers so that they become so immersed in your story, they forget where they are—they forget they are reading at all.

This workshop is similar to the Writing Mastery workshop, but will be more exercise-oriented, with in-class practices. Writing Enchanting Prose is more in-depth than any of David’s past prose workshops.

In this workshop, Dave would like to create an intimate environment where individual students will receive ample time for one-on-one interaction and critiques. Dave will be spending personal time with each student. Because of that, we will be strictly limiting the number of students allowed to attend to 10.


New Book from a Friend

Dulcinea: or Wizardry A-Flute

Dulcinea Brown is about to discover a whole new kind of magic. It’s a good thing, too, because she’ll soon be called upon to save the world. Can her flute magic stop a dragon and prevent the evil Society of Mages from tearing the very fabric of reality?


Leave a Reply

Did you like this writing tip?
Click below to share with your friends

Related Posts

Wait, before you go…

Be sure to get free access to David Farland’s course on how to brainstorm, pre-write and outline a bestselling novel!

Advanced Story Puzzle Course