Strong concepts that are well executed are the rare gems we as writers mine for every day. I’ve spent most of my editorial career in packaging, first at Alloy Entertainment and then at Full Fathom Five, and I’ve been in the room when so many blockbuster ideas were hatched, notably, the New York Times best-selling series, Gossip Girl and Dorothy Must Die. Both series were honed and developed as a collective effort, and I’m a firm believer in brainstorming ideas as a way to drill down and refine.
But what do you do when you don’t have the luxury of other creative minds at your disposal?
Here are three tricks I use to generate new concepts:
- Take what’s already working and flip it. Pick an existing book, movie, TV show and turn it on its head. If it’s an adult book ask yourself how this world would work if it were populated by children. If it’s reality based, think about how it would work with elements of magic or fantasy. If it’s a fairy tale, imagine how the story would play out if it were told by another character.
- Dig around for material in newspapers and magazines. Find stories that interest you and place fictional characters into existing settings. Or existing characters into fictional settings.
- Anyone who’s ever been to an improv comedy show knows this trick. One audience member shouts out a setting, another one assigns a career to each player, and a third audience member provides a condition (sub-freezing temperatures, zero-gravity, the red carpet, biblical times, etc.). You can simulate this on your own by writing down random ideas on slips of paper, separating them into piles, and drawing from each. Even if you end up with something ridiculous like “A band geek in Santa’s Work Shop during a heat wave,” you’ll get the juices flowing.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can put a raw idea aside for a little while, and your subconscious does the creative work for you!
~~~Judy Goldschmidt taught a master class in Fall 2014 with Ideasmyth, Breaking into YA Fiction. She has been a children’s book publishing professional for fourteen years. She began her career as an editor/developer at the premier children’s book packager, Alloy Entertainment, where she edited the NY Times bestselling series The A-List. After that she was an editor at Penguin Group Young Readers, before returning to packaging at Full Fathom Five, where she’s currently the editor of the New York Times best-selling series, The Kicks, and developing four exciting new series. She’s also blogged for MissLiterati.Com, a blog geared for YA readers and aspiring writers, and is the author of the critically acclaimed Raisin Rodriguez trilogy.