Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
I agree with Emma’s Writing Basis #12. Forget those first familiar ideas that remind us of what we already know. Our job, as creators, is to keep the fun alive by making up new stuff for the world to DISCOVER. And the more DIFFERENT the discovery is, the more interesting it is.
That’s what art is about: DIFFERNCES. Contrasting normality delivers an experience of something new, nudging us to observe our lives in other ways, maybe think in other ways.
Problem is, beyond going to movies and reading genre books, most people don’t want anything different at all. If fact, they prefer continuity, stability, and a mellow ride into the future. In other words, while in real life, please, NO surprises! Stock markets crave assurances too. They react to change like cranky kids.
So I get it. Nobody, no company, no country, wants high drama. But friends, let’s face it. Unless we’re writing genre novels with preset structures, it’s hard to be an original author when we choose to cruise a straight road with no traffic. Nothing is happening.
Okay. We can make stuff up. But based on what? Someone else’s novel or movie?
Here it comes, “Who IS this guy, Podolsky! He’s telling me to live a racy life of scary surprises! That’s nuts! I’m a mother of three holding down a job, with a husband who isn’t, and I live in McPherson, Kansas!”
Actually Ma’am, with that kind of small town struggle you’ve got some pretty meaty stuff to draw from. If you’re surviving, the stress demands action. So you became proactive, the savior, the Mommy/Wife Hero. Are you writing about that?
No? You’re not interested in describing your daily grind? Guess what. You’re writing about feelings, or at least you should be. If you invite them into your stories, those emotions can be powerful. But first you must understand who you are by contrasting yourself with who you are NOT, and that might take some research.
Let’s say you’re okay. No trauma. You’ve got a good life, good husband and your kids have yet to discover porn and weed. You started reading at five and haven’t stopped. And now you want to write fantasies like the ones in your bookshelves.
Nothing bad about that but are you scribing another version of a best seller? Or are you moving beyond your favorite authors with an entirely new spin on a vampire kiss? If you ARE searching for that unusual spin, do you know where to find it?
You don’t? Well here’s a clue. You won’t unwrap outrageous kissing techniques in classic gothic fantasies. You’ll unearth them in faraway lands. That’s right. Book a trip to Borneo.
What? Can’t do that for a thousand reasons? Okay, how about READING about Borneo, or the Seychelles, or Tajikistan? Accurate info about exotic cultures always helps. And so would reading about space travel, anthropology, archeology, or what it’s like to be a firefighter, a mayor, a zoo keeper or fashion designer; a New Orleans chef, journalist, soldier, CEO or mistress. That’s the research I mentioned. Learning about our World’s diversity helps you find your place within it, new ideas, and better kissing skills.
Frans Johansson, an entrepreneur and business consultant wrote a book I read last year titled, The Medici Effect. He relied on the work of researchers in creativity and innovation, such as Dean Keith Simonton, Clayton Christensen, Teresa Amabile and a further range of psychologists, economists and sociologists. Lots of brainy people are studying how and why we create stuff and Mr. Johansson distilled their studies into one focused volume which I’ll briefly outline here.
His basic premise is this: When like-minded experts come together, say automobile engineers, they pool their knowledge to perfect existing technology, like the internal combustion engine. The engine mechanics gets better and better until there’s little more that can be improved. This is good of course, but this narrow-view advancement eventually hits a dead end. The inventors exhaust their well of ideas about gas powered cars because they’re all authorities in gas powered cars, and not with computers, rocket science or fashion design.
Conformity refines conformity.
There’s another approach to innovation, about cars and everything else. It’s more organic. It’s the way things work in nature, and it’s what I’ve been advising when it comes to authoring fiction.
Mr. Johansson writes in his introduction,
When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas.
This is what happened in Florence, Italy when the Medici banking family funded sculptors, scientists, philosophers, artists and architects all in one place. This group learned from each other, converged cultures and forged a new world which came to be known as the Renaissance.
Today, as artists and writers, we can bring to life the ideas we find swimming in the soup of differences. DIVERSITY is a much tastier stew than pure tomato soup.
So getting back to car engines, suppose you’re a young man named Elon from South Africa and you’ve got an economics degree from the Wharton School and you acquire a second bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania. Then you fly to Silicon Valley because that’s where the action is and you go for a PhD in applied physics and materials science. But you drop out to save the world, starting with software. You create Zip2, then X.com that morphs into PayPal which you sell to eBay for piles of money, and you use that cash to start two more projects: Telsa Motors and Space Exploration Technologies, commonly referred to as SpaceX.
So what happens when a guy like Elon Musk with multiple degrees and interests, what happens when this modern Renaissance man builds a car company of IT engineers, ex-fashion designers and rocket scientists? What do you get? You get luxury, fast-ass, gorgeous “future-mobiles” that run on computer batteries with zero emissions and plenty of punch. You also get an electric powertrain system selling to Daimler’s Smart EV cars, the Mercedes A Class and the Toyota’s RAV4.
And what about SpaceX? It was the first commercial “starship” company to supply the orbiting space station and its Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fuelled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit. Mr. Musk plans to send people to the surface of Mars within 10 to 20 years. All this from a small but diverse collection of super smart dudes and dudettes in Hawthorne, California.
Every great invention that came to be started with a dream and a mix of all the things needed to make that idea grow into something excitingly new. If that something new happens to be your yarn, to make it pop you’ll need to steer clear of WHAT IS and plunge into the abyss of WHAT-COULD-BE. That’s not difficult if you feed your brain. When you diversify, when you stretch your knowledge in many directions, your writing will surge with interesting associations. I promise you, new plot twists will automatically come to mind. It’s the way we think when there’s more to ponder than those first five ideas.
So click on the links. Watch other minds in play. Get inspired!
Originally posted on Curiosityquills.com.