Sunday, February 1, 2015

Idea Garage Sale: Economy of Inspiration

Not to toot my own horn, but I've often thought that the Switching Well concept has a certain abstract beauty, in that, baldly stated, it generates an infinity possibility of story.

The core concept is: "Two girls swap places across 100 years, without moving geographically."

I did this in San Antonio, and had nothing past that concept and the two anchor points. I learned everything I could about the past anchor point and put a whole lot more effort into understanding the present anchor point than I normally do, and what I learned generated the story. If I had been living in Atlanta, or Detroit, or Paris, or Myanmar, or Panora, Iowa; or started writing in 2015, or 1950, or 2102; it would have been a completely different story.

If you started working on this idea right now, where you live, with a pair of kids who look a lot like you, the end result would be less similar to Switching Well than Twilight is to Dracula; than Hunger Games is to Divergent; than Heroes of Olympus is to Harry Potter is to Jane Yolen's Wizard Hall.

For that matter, Switching Well isn't particularly similar to Penelope Lively's Charlotte Sometimes, which has Clare and Charlotte swapping across a shorter time period, alternating days, and being mistaken for each other, when you read them side by side. And yet, stating the premise of each book, it's clear that the Switching Well idea was not by any means original to me, who read Charlotte Sometimes in junior high.

Originality does not mean what you think it means. We all work within traditions.

Execution is the once and future everything. Steal an idea, make it your own.

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