Are there really “original” ideas anymore? My daughter is someone who seems to have a creative confidence I lacked in my early twenties, as she brings her Improv group to LA’s stages and throws her hat in the ring for jobs at Buzzfeed and other “cooler than thou” media companies. And yet, she voiced a fear that I had as a young ‘un (and since), “there’s really nothing left to do or say that is original.”
It can feel like you got to the party too late, and your heroes are doing exactly what you might have done. How can you get yourself to that truly unique, original idea?
Where might you need truly original thinking? For a meet-cute, a plot twist, a character, or a book title. There is nothing scarier than the idea that your hard work might be labeled cliche. Or worse, just not make it out of the gate. Your agent isn’t interested – no explanation given.
Most ideas that are considered “original” are paradigm shifts.
They make everyone start thinking about a thing in a completely new way, when we’d been stuck thinking about them the same way forever. Thomas Kuhn American physicist and philosopher (1922–1996) coined the phrase, and used the famous duck/rabbit drawing to reveal how a shift in consciousness can cause one to see the same information in an entirely new way.
And how do paradigm shifts occur? Often it’s an outsider, or someone from the new generation, who sees it differently and then has the empathy and voice to lead people to their different vision. Often a paradigm shift comes from a clumsy but insightful pairing of two different worlds.
There is an excellent tool that can help insiders and not so next-gen people achieve paradigm shifts and original thinking – Forced Connections.
Forced Connections & Original Ideas
Let’s try a forced connection to come up with an original idea for a meet-cute. If you’re writing a rom-com, you’ve probably already googled the most enduring meet-cutes. You’ve looked at the elements of a great meet-cute:
- Something accidental – including possibly a traffic accident
- Something potentially humiliating – like a spill down the front of a beautiful dress
- Some stammering, hemming and hawing – which proves attraction
- Some asinine assumptions – like who’s in charge, or what kind of person the other is
- Often the two are an unlikely pairing.
So you’d like to write a refreshing, original, meet-cute. What can force your brain into a new direction? Forced Connections.
How to force connections
- Look at interesting pictures from many paradigms – science, literature, vintage, art, tv, domestics, retail, airports, school, outer space, the wild, wild west. (There’s a smattering of pics below.)
- Look at them one at a time and ask yourself: “What ideas do you get from this picture for your meet-cute?”
- Let your brain force a clumsy connection between the new picture and your characters/situation.
- Imagine the meet-cute that results from the “smashing” of the two ideas, and write a quick thumbnail of what it might be. Repeat multiple times.
- REMEMBER, it does not need to be a GOOD idea. Just write whatever comes into your mind. Continue to come up with ideas from the first pic before moving on to the next pic. Collect multiple ideas for your scene, before you assess the ideas.
- Now, as you look at the ideas you came up with, ask yourself: “How might this idea work?” It is important to look for the germ of the weird idea, before you discard it. Evaluate it from an affirmative position.
This could well lead you to your most original thinking. And I can’t wait to hear your new and original meet-cute ideas.