I sat down with a work associate after hours and the discussion drifted to non-work subjects (as it often will when alcohol is involved). We were talking about literature and his idea for a sci-fi Sherlock Holmes book he wanted to write (pass me the phaser, Watson, the game is afoot). I happened to mention that I write, and my associate’s face melted into the kind of scowl teachers give when homework is turned in with gum stuck to it. “Well then I shouldn’t talk to you about anything,” he said, “because I don’t want you stealing my ideas.” To make his point, he quickly shifted the conversation to sports. My knowlede of sports is equal to my knowledge of zero-g neurosurgery and the study of Amazon river basin silt.
I’ve managed to uncover what is, in my mind, the great truth about ideas: they are worthless. No matter who you are, how brilliant you think your idea is, it’s still has less value than a chipped commemorative Elvis dinner plate showcasing his fat years. Ideas are not a kind of social currency to buy admiration and respect, and the concept of a brilliant idea-generator who does nothing but think of things is a myth.
Execution is everything. Any idea, no matter how brilliant, is absolutely worthless without execution. It seems like the amateurs who lack the ability to execute are the ones who covet ideas the most, guarding them like impressionable children. Writing is lonely enough already, isolating yourself and segmenting your idea is a great way to kill it. Good writing is a result of good critiquing, discussing, and sharing, which can’t happen if ideas are precious, fragile treasures never to be shared until final release.
Beyond this, consider that stories which hinge entirely on concept and idea usually fail to be engaging and entertaining to the reader. Characters are the reader’s gateway into the story, and good characters are what make ideas memorable. Think about your favorite story, and you’re likely to picture a character first, idea and concept second.