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I have an idea for something that I want to make.

I’m codenaming it Project Greenfield. I don’t want to share too much about it, because I’m nervous that exposing the idea publicly might make it difficult to keep working on it. But I have this idea for a science fiction video series (I genuinely don’t know whether to call it a TV series or a web series. I have no aspirations for making TV, but an hour-long drama format tends to be a bit longer than one might expect from a web series).

How Are Concepts Born?

The reading that I’ve done lately about the process of writing — I’m going through Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life at the moment — seems to take for granted that you come at this process with this brilliant idea in your head. I imagine Ricky Gervais thinking “What if no one were able to lie?” Then he’d race over to his computer and start typing up a screenplay.

I don’t have ideas like that. My creative daemon came up with a few camera shots. I imagine a character shaved bald, unconscious, in a tub filled with ice. As we slowly pull back, an unknown man reaches over quickly snaps the shower curtain closed. Cut to black!

Personally, I hope that shot never gets filmed. My bathroom is a nightmare to shoot in! But that’s really not the main point.

This idea is the sort of thing that came in a few flashes of images. It’s not a plot. It’s not a concept. It’s not even a character. The challenge for me has been trying to figure out what the idea is, exactly. I know I’m excited about it, but what’s the story?

Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of freewriting, and spent a lot of “thinking time” on the concept. I find it particularly challenging to have to constantly remind myself not to preemptively limit the scope of the idea. It’s ridiculously easy to say “I don’t know how I could shoot a restaurant scene. I don’t know any restaurant owners!” But that’s just my good old friend “make things so you can tell people” talking. I can always make a second draft where I worry about what’s practical.

But How Do You Even Idea?

I like this idea. I want to develop it. But I honestly don’t know how idea development works. I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to just throw the characters in a room, and roleplay all of them, in the hopes they do something interesting. Or maybe I’m supposed to create a season arc first. Or a series arc first. And then I should write a quick sentence summary for each episode. And then map out rising action and falling action for all of that.

When I was younger, I used to just be able to vomit thoughts out onto a page. Now, it seems I need a little more direction.

Still, Project Greenfield! I’m excited!