On Writing (Part 5): Have more than one Good Idea per Story

(originally shared on Ello)

When I was younger, I used to think one solid or good idea was enough to carry a story. With time, I learned that to be very, very false. Having one good idea is not enough to carry a story. For example, Hitchcock's film Saboteur ends with a climactic action scene atop the Statue of Liberty. Now, imagine if everything leading up to that was a series of lame ideas leading into that one good idea. Now, you see the point.

To really make a story work, it needs to be a combination of great ideas that build out to one another. How I really discovered this was by finding that some ideas and characters I had jotted down in notes seemed to overlap with other ideas and characters. I then began to compare ideas and realized I could make much better stories by taking all of these great ideas, that were separate but similar, and combining them into one story full of great ideas.

It's like when you watch a movie or read a book and think, "It was a great premise, but that was it." Someone making that movie or writing that book had one good idea (the basic premise), and the rest was just filler.

So, don't make stories that only contain one idea. Make stories that are filled with all kinds of good ones.

image from Saboteur

If you've never seen Saboteur, you really should check it out. Great film with twists and turns, great chemistry between leads and a ton of fun characters along the way.