Friday, September 17, 2010

Ideas: Like DNA, Everyone Has Them

So today is Friday which is when I post the music I've found during the week but today I read a great blog post and it made me think that I wanted to post about slightly more than music. Using music as, you know, a segue. The blog post was by Mary Kole (an agent) and it was about ideas versus execution. Which was better -- a novel with a great idea or a novel that was written well.

Well, her post says that part just like I would. But it's the closing bit that she brings up that interested me, because I get a fair number of e-mails about it. She says that ultimately, execution wins, and that's why you don't need to worry about people stealing your ideas. And that's what I want to talk about. Because I get absolute wads of people discovering that I'm an author and telling me that they have an idea for a novel. And then I get more wads saying that they want a critique partner but they're afraid that someone will steal their novel idea.

Which is where MUSIC SEGUE comes in.

Let us look at two examples here.


Boys and girls, that is "Don't Walk Away, Renee," first by the Left Banke, and the second by the Four Tops (I own both, thanks very much)(one of my favorite songs -- it aches). 

It's the same tune -- the same "idea" -- but the execution is what's different. They're more similar than a lot of remakes, though. Think of Johnny Cash's version of the Nine Inch Nail's song "Hurt" or Marilyn Manson's version of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." Jose Gonzalez's "Teardrop" versus the eerie original by Massive Attack. You go on youtube and search for those songs, you'll find those, but you'll also find a bunch of rabid fans with badly tuned guitars (why does no one tune their B string? Ever?)(why do I keep using parathenticals today?) singing their versions of those songs.

If you're like me, you'll groan if the latter is all you find. You want the real song -- a real version by a real band. It's not just about the idea. It's the execution. It has to be professional, and to your taste at that.

We can take it a step further and talk about this in movies too -- fairy tale retellings are a great example. Disney's Cinderella and Ever After are both the same story of a hot girl pressed into menial labor before busting out into happy ending land. The idea is exactly the same. (Actually, in Hollywood, this happens a lot -- did you notice that Pixar's Cars and Doc Hollywood are the exact same plot/ idea, with different trimmings?)

Okay. So my point. My point is that a good idea is a wonderful thing to have. A great idea's even better. But

1) it's not enough. Otherwise you're just the fan video on Youtube, not the real thing. It's like . . . there are a million Harry Potter fanfiction stories out there, but you'll notice fans were still dying for the last book by J. K. herself. Execution. You have to learn how to make that idea shine and fill it out as good as it can get. Nothing worse for me than picking up a novel with a glowing premise and no follow through.

And 2) no one's going to steal it. And even if they did, they'd have to learn how to execute it amazingly. And even if they did know how to execute it amazingly (in which case, why aren't they writing their own damn ideas?), it would look entirely different from your version of the thing. So. Don't let fear of theft get in the way of finding you a critique partner. There are much better things to be afraid of, like crappy critiques.

Wow, I am so helpful today.

I think I better just post the music I found last week. (as usual, if you love it, go buy it legally, or I'll be extremely vexed and hex your family pets).

1. "A Homeward Bound Overture" - Bruce Broughton
2. "Anitra's Dance" and
3. "Arabian Dance" from Grieg's Peer Gynt (I used to write creepy faerie stories to the first as a teen)
4. "Playing Tag and Magnificent Horse" - Carmine Coppolla (from the Black Stallion soundtrack" 
5. "The Legend" - from the Black Stallion soundtrack
6. "The Prince of Persia" - Harry Gregson Williams
7. "Waltzing Matilda" - Ophelia of the Spirits (I have a million versions of this song, which is the saddest happy song ever)
8. "Ashokan Farewell" - Jay Ungar (replacing a disc)
9. "Fate Has Smiled Upon Us" - Marc Streitenfeld from Robin Hood
10. "There is a God in You" - Ramin Djawadi from Clash of the Titans (I listened to "release the kraken" too, because I realllly wanted to like it, but it wasn't what I needed)

And my favorite, because it sums up everything important about FOREVER, "Welcome Home" by Radical Face. (The video is beautiful too).

The lyrics - OMG - the lyrics on that song. When he gets to "ships are launching" I perish every time.


beth said...

I like this post, a lot. It's a conversation frequently held in my house. I tend to take your approach.

Ashley said...

Exactly what I needed to read this morning.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Yay so much more music to listen to! And you are SO right about execution!

Rachel said...

I hadn't really considered this--that critique partners would be thieves in disguise, probably because all the people I've talked to so far seem to genuinely want to help. But you're completely right, why on earth would they think they could make a buck nabbing your idea if they didn't have the ability to come up with something decent of their own... I like the way you used music to explain!

Dawn Embers said...

Great post. I'd say almost everyone does have a novel idea. My mom has a novel idea that she'll never write because she doesn't think she's good enough at writing (hasn't really tried). My grandma just is baffled by the idea of people writing novels, which makes for fun conversations about my writing.

Cinderella is probably used the most. There are several movie renditions, several other stories with some of the same plot lines and a few of the writers I know have a cinderella version either started or brewing. I have one that I'm using strictly for blogfests just for fun.

Anyways, excellent post.

Anonymous said...

That is great advice... if only I had an idea! I starting writing a lot of a book, then stopped because I read it back again and realized that my writing sounded so young and that I've changed as a person, and in my writing since the last time I worked on that story. So I started a different one... got stuck... never came back. Started another... realized how weird I sounded, then stopped. Now I don't know what's next! I always feel like I have a FABULOUS story idea, then I execute it and am EVENTUALLY disappointed. My question(s?) is How do you find a story idea, stick with it, and why do I keep feeling like I'm growing out of my writing (I'm a 13 year old aspiring writer btw)?? If you reply thank you so much your advice always helps! If you don't and just read this just know that I love your work and want to eventually write just like you!!!

Jo said...

The music video absolutely killed me, and I am now DYING to read Forever, and I will probably be in a state of intense pain as I wait.

"Peel my scars from off my back; I don't need them any more. Through them out the door, put them in a mason jar"--exquisite! Thanks for sharing this song. Loved (and agreed with) your thoughts about the importance of execution.

Jo said...

And by "through" I mean "throw." Not sure what happened there...

Sybil said...

This is a great point. It never occured to me that someone would steal my novel ideas-- probably for this very reason. Or when I read other people's all I can think is "wow, I could have never written that as beautifully as you did!" It's definitely about the execution.

Veronika Downing said...

i reminds me of a song cover i heard the other day
the song is "You're the one that I want" from Grease...and I;m sure everyone's heard that one before.
And Angus and Julia Stone did a great cover of it that is totally different and beautiful in its own way.So i thought I'd share :)

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