The Case of The DOA Idea

May 6, 2010 at 8:17 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )


I was going to plunge into a new writing project a few weeks ago.  That was a funny idea in itself given how unfocused I’ve been in recent times but what was even sillier was that the idea I had come up with was terrible.

Terrible might not be the right word.  I’m sure every idea has merit, somewhere, hidden, deep down inside.  Maybe someone else could make the idea quite a workable writing project.  It won’t be me.

It doesn’t really matter what the idea was.  I’m sure we’ve all had flashed of inspiration and then realised that they were all flash and no substance.  This was worse than that.  It was all flash and no substance but left a really bad smell lingering in its wake.  The kind of smell that sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear that there is something to the idea.  It isn’t dead yet. The kind of smell that makes you keep returning to the point of origin but you don’t have the heart to get rid of.

This idea was dead on arrival.  I should have just dismissed it, jotted it down in one of my endless notebooks and gotten rid of it, and yet something kept drawing me back.  I kept thinking I could, somehow, make this idea work.

Many failed plot plans and an opening chapter later, I finally conceded defeat.  Should I have admitted it earlier? Most definitely but it isn’t all bad news.

I came up with a name.  And then a face.  And then a brilliant idea for a character.  Since then I have planned a really intriguing plot and run it by a few friends who have helped me tweak the idea and fix it into something that is more or less workable.  The name and the character were part of the failed idea.  What made me decide to call the other project dead was the fact that I loved this character I had come up with and hated everything about what they were doing in the original outline.  I took the character and cut the rest loose.

Maybe this is just my flimsy rationalisation for holding onto things I shouldn’t, but I think that I needed one idea to die for another to come about.  It worked at least and I am ready to plunge headlong into the fun process of beginning a first draft.

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9 Comments

  1. AlexJ said,

    Maybe it’ll be just good writing practice for you.

  2. Joanne said,

    Writing can be such a process, and sometimes we have to get through many twists and turns to get to a certain destination. Your original idea held something valuable, and you worked that idea until you found the gem. Kudos to you!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I find that sometimes the process can be really fun and can hold many valuable things and sometimes it really is just going through the motions until something emerges that is usuable.

  3. Jonathan said,

    Your exploration of your DOA idea is another example of why writing everyday, even if you’re not at your best or the words aren’t coming or whatever, is so important. Good things seem to come at unusual times and often not in the form we would have guessed. I think of how many levels writers fail before they succeed – even those seemingly wasted moments make us a little wiser. Thanks for sharing.

  4. levimontgomery said,

    I’ve discovered that usually, my DOA ideas turn out not to have been stories at all. There’s no tension, no conflict. Nobody wants anything. Perhaps it was a setting, or a character, or something that might, maybe, someday, if it’s lucky and it plays all its cards right, become a scene in something more worthy, but it’s not a story.

    It reminds me of what so often happens when I tell people I’m a writer. Oh, wonderful, I always wanted to be a writer, where do you get your ideas, etc, all slide by in a blur, and then “You should write a story about X!”

    “You should write a story about a person that goes to a school for the blind!”
    “You should write a story about a girl with three huge dogs!”
    “You should write a story about a man always wears white!”

    Problem is, those aren’t stories. Those are, um… I don’t know what those are (except real examples of things people have told me), but unless Good Guy wants something, and Bad Guy is dead set against it, there ain’t no story, and the best writer on Earth can’t tell a non-story and make it good.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Have to agree, it is the conflict that makes it a story. You can have the most interesting character in the world and still not have a story. Still, once I know the character I can usually figure out what conflict they are about to stumble into and from there I can plan the story.

  5. Carol J. Garvin said,

    Finding the gem hidden within the original idea obviously took a while, but you persevered. Good for you! What I call the “percolation process” won’t conveniently fit into a specific time frame. Sometimes we just have to keep mulling something over until its usefulness is revealed.

  6. Carol Kilgore said,

    Good for you! Hey … you must be a writer 🙂

  7. catwoods said,

    Cassandra,

    I hear that every good and successful novel is a culmination of tiny ideas woven together. They do not usually come fully formed and often are little snippets that was salvage from the DOAs that haunt us!

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