No Research = Concept Problems
So often a writer will pitch me their concept and I say, ‘Oh, so like XYZ?’
They’ll look at me, totally blank. These won’t be obscure titles either. They will be big-time movies, TV shows, novels … it doesn’t matter. The writer has not done his, her – or their! – research and road-tested their idea.
It always shocks me how so many writers don’t read books, or watch TV or film … then think they can write something with zero problems?? Total madness!
If we don’t know what the concept is at grassroots level – plus where it is on the timeline of everything that has been created already – we are on a highway to nowhere.
Look, I get it: it’s great to think YOUR concept is 100% original
We writers all think we’re special snowflakes at heart. But you know what’s even BETTER?
Realising you’re just one frond of THAT special snowflake that is storytelling as a whole!!
This is what I mean when I say ‘Check out who and/or what has gone before!’
Every single time you come up with a new concept for your novel or screenplay, here’s the very LEAST you can do:
- Google elements of your concept, ie. ‘haunted doll’, ‘enemies to lovers’, ‘sci fi about humanity’, ‘political thrillers’ etc
- Watch or read the titles that come up as your search results – and make notes about them
- Put simply: IMMERSE YOURSELF in what’s gone before
It’s really that simple!
It’s so much fun, too
Far from being a chore, I LOVE this part. I find it so thrilling to come up with a concept and work out …
- WHO was talking about the same genre / tropes / tones / type of thing I’m interested in writing about
- WHAT was the same/different (and WHY) of those produced and published works
- Plus WHERE those stories are on the timeline (5 years ago? 10? 25? More?? What about the rest?)
Doing this important foundation work means your story will be relevant and authentic. As every veteran Banger knows, authenticity is VERY important in the 2020s. It also means you won’t be accidentally rehashing what’s gone before.
BONUS: it also means your concept won’t feel DATED!
By looking to what people have said before and how that might have changed over the years … that’s the literal golden ticket to something prescient, universal, relatable.
I’ve lost count of the number of drafts – both novels and screenplays – that ‘feel’ old-hat. No one wants rehashes of what’s gone before. Basing your concept on your favourite movie, book, TV show from 25+ years ago never works.
That’s not to say you can’t have favourites or influences. Of course you can! (Here’s just 14 of mine).
But when a concept is super-popular, guess what??
People in those resulting 25+ years have ALREADY done a variety of takes on that super-popular concept. Oops.
So you have to find the take that’s NEVER BEEN DONE …
… and you can’t do that without combing through all of the previous ones.
This won’t ‘influence you’ and ‘make you copy’ them – the opposite is true.
You will only be able to find the fresh take by seeing what’s MISSING.
Yet writers shy away from immersing themselves in what’s gone before … and actively sabotage themselves, because they end up copying by accident. Ugh!
This is because humans are basically a pack or a herd … we will have the same, obvious ideas unless we really dig deep!
More on B2W About Concept
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