Heaps of Ideas

I got an email today from someone with lots ideas that she wants to sell:

I have heaps of story ideas, but I am not good at creating characters. Is there a place out there for people like me? Somebody who buys the basis of a story. So far I have written shorts of a story into a small book with hopes that it will make a good movie. Can you recommend who I could get to publish my little book?

Unfortunately, there really isn’t a place for people with ideas but no ability to execute them. Publishers and studios don’t buy ideas, they buy the execution of the idea by authors and screenwriters. Writers rarely buy ideas, though they might option novels, biographies, etc. But what is a good story without strong characters?

I don’t know a lot about the short story world (that’s more my brother Tod’s area of expertise). I recommend you submit your short stories to some magazines. Once they are published, you might get some attention for them from a screenwriter or a studio, especially if they garner critical acclaim.

2 thoughts on “Heaps of Ideas”

  1. You are so right. There IS no story without characters. Even stories without people (or anthropomorphized animals or objects), have characters of sorts. In some horror films, houses are characters, but even then, there is a consciousness behind it. The house is a “person”ification.
    To me, a story idea without characters is like a meal without meat, vegetables and fruit. Where is the conflict without people, the points of tension that must be resolved?
    Now, if she’s talking about fleshing out characters, that’s something else. The excerpt of her email didn’t get into detail.
    Fleshing out character from this bare-bones “Female reporter falls in love with super hero,” to a living, breathing Lois Lane and Superman takes some thought. But it’s still just another skill. Therefore, it’s learnable.
    Writers don’t have the luxury of saying, “I’m not a character person. Just an idea person,” anymore than we have the luxury of saying, “I can’t write a query letter or a synopsis,” or “Promoting my book isn’t my job,” or “I just write the story, someone else can edit it” or “I’m no good at the business side of writing, keeping books, tracking manuscripts, etc.”
    Sorry. Unless writers can afford to PAY someone to do all the things we’re not as skilled at, (or get a family member to help us), we absolutely must master — to a degree — every aspect of this business. It’s an unfortunate reality.
    Also, I think you have to understand the human condition and like people more than you like imagining what might happen to them or around them. It’s not the situations and action/activity that matter. Rather, it’s the IMPACT those things have ON PEOPLE.
    World War II happened. You could tell us (and many have) the facts, that the key players were Resistance fighters, Nazis, and Allies; that the Jews and others considered inferior to the “Master Race” were imprisoned, brutalized and mass-murdered. Our moral outrage might surface to a degree, but then we’d go back to our morning cup of caffeine or yawn and go to sleep.
    Why would we even care? It’s too objective. It doesn’t touch our core.
    If, however, human faces were put on this time period — it’s not really a “story” yet — and we can be shown what specific people are feeling, what they experience, what happens to them inside, how the horrors, the terror, the brutality resonate through the rest of their lives, THEN it’s not just “a” story. It’s their story.
    Does she remain fearful, timid and obsessed with pleasing anyone in authority? Does he harden himself, becoming almost as unmoved and detached as the perpetrators? Does her hatred of the Nazis lead to bitterness that spills over into every other aspect of her life? Does losing everyone he cares about lead to his inability to be close to another human being?
    Seeing the horror through a child’s eyes, through a mother’s eyes, through a grandfather’s eyes, through the enemy’s eyes, through an unwilling collaborator’s eyes, through a double-agent’s eyes, or through an objective storyteller’s eyes that see and hear all, changes the story’s context.
    A story needs characters not only so that we care about what happens, but to provide a context, the story’s viewpoint. It is their story and no one else’s. From vicariously experiencing that unique perspective, we are changed. Were you ever the same again after you read “The Diary of Anne Frank?” I wasn’t.
    Good storytelling and compelling characters subtly change our life view, shaping us in ways we’re usually not aware of until we look back on our lives. Guess it’s an occupational hazard for writers. Or maybe it’s just being an aging Baby Boomer…
    I’m going to blog about this on my site. Thanks for writing about this point. It surely got my juices flowing!
    Deb Gallardo
    The Story Ideas Virtuoso
    at debgallardo.com/virtuoso

  2. I would have to say that no short story writer I’ve ever encountered is short of ideas. I have a document with something like 300 ideas in it. No, there are plenty of ideas out there.


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