Friday, August 5, 2011

Imagination Wants to be Free

I learned something pretty cool last night, browsing a fellow writer's blog. This writer has a particularly funny way with words, very Pythonesque. Almost like slapstick, but with words. The lesson there is that being funny is a very good way to make people laugh. More importantly, it's worth going for the extra silly joke, rather than holding back for fear of the dreaded unfunnyness.

This wasn't the really important lesson, however. That lesson is summed up in the tittle to this blog, a play on the hacker's mantra - imagination wants to be free. Think about it, how often have you held your writing back by running your ideas through what I like to call "the filter of fear of failure"?

In other words, you approach an idea with the intent "what can I do to make this idea viable, ie not so loony?" instead of "what can I do to make this idea as awesomely cool as possible?" This second approach I like to call "the unfilter".

I have been using this process in my work with the idea bank lately. I come up with an idea, no matter how outlandish, and try to run with it. Very often, if you take an idea far enough, you end up somewhere both viable and fresh.

For instance - Ribbot Invasion

Idea - What if robot frogs were assaulting a suburban home? How would the homeowners fight them off?

Refinement - A elderly lady must defend her home from an invading force of robot frogs, while attempting to figure out their origin.

Story - Doctor Hoptario's ninja android swarm has been defeated by the combined might of the Science Hamster Team. He decides to try robotic frogs instead, or what he terms "Ribbots". He mistakenly targets the wrong house, and the SHT only gets wind of the assault on their neighbor's house when it's almost too late. They manage to save the elderly lady, whose late husbands fly fishing lure collection comes in handy. They defeat the frogs, but what will they do about the continuing menace of Dr. Hoptario?

That particular story has some severe lack of genre identification, it's silly on many levels, and who on earth would buy it? Atlwast, that's what my filter of fear of failure says. My unfilter say "Holy bleep! That sounds like the coolest
saturday morning cartoon that never actually aired, but should have. Let's write it, right now!"

See the difference?

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