Author’s Note: I’m currently in the process of migrating old blog posts to this new system. That may mean some links, syntax highlighting, and other details are broken or missing temporarily. Sorry for the inconvenience!
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!