Can a bad idea make a good story?

Of course! At least I think any idea can make a good story.

Because are there really any bad ideas? Or just bad execution?

We all have that one friend who when they start with, “Let me tell you…,” we cringe. Yet a different friend can call, and we can’t wait to hear the ending of “Let me tell you…” Because this person will leave us laughing or crying.

What’s the difference? One is dry as dust with the telling, and another is entertaining.

A few weeks ago I posted about fleshing out ideas. But I was assuming the idea was a good one.

But what if your idea doesn’t sound all that good to other people? What then? Do you throw it out and search for another subject?

No, not necessarily. Everything is in the delivery.

After reading How to Develop Any Idea Into a Great Story at Writers Digest, I began to understand more about why some of my story ideas seem to die on the vine. 

I need to feed them differently, shine light from a different angle, but rework the idea until it sizzles with energy.

Here are the things I gleaned from the article.

  • Bend it by-
    • Getting primal, give your character an inner yearning that drives him.
      • Now take that urge and bend it to an uncomfortable level.
    • Taking the familiar, turning it on its head, make a paradox. A lover of women who kills women
    • Have fun with a little crazy. Who is the crazy one?
  • Amp it with-
    • Emotions/feelings
    • Action
    • People
    • There are no minor characters. Make sure the story gives each character their due.
    • Inflict Pain. Add a truth teller, a flesh ripping, spine-tingling character.
    • Let your characters feel pain.
    • Remember blood is thicker than water. Family trumps all. Add conflict of kinship.
  • Drive it-
    • 0-60, hit the gas. Start with blood, guts, tears, fears, danger, broken lives and don’t slow down.
    • Let the normal dissolve and barrel like an out of control train toward disaster.
    • Make your victim complicit in her dilemma.
    • Give your protagonist an impossible choice.
  • Strip it-
    • Quality over quantity
    • Don’t tell the emotions, let the reader feel the emotion.
    • Use small, everyday things to bring the story to life.

What do you think? Can a bad idea really be turned into a good story?

Have you ever taken a bad idea and turned it around?

Do you have an idea that’s sitting on a back burner?

I’ve got a notebook full!

Need more tips to turn your idea around?

Keep reading – great articles below.

Leave me a comment – I love comments.

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How to turn an idea into a story (Free workbook) Tera Lynn Childs

How to Turn an Idea Into a Story – Luc Reid

How to brainstorm your story idea into a working concept – Veronica Sicoe


15 thoughts on “Can a bad idea make a good story?

  1. I’m sure some ideas are so bad – re: Sharknado – they should not be pursued. On the other hand, we never know what somebody’s goal in producing it was. Occasionally a decent actor appears in a piece of garbage movie because they wanted to direct, and the way they were able to direct was to appear in a piece of garbage they directed. In writing, somebody may take on a new challenge to stretch their author muscles, and decide after the fact that they needed to stick to whatever they were writing before. I can see that happening, and them putting it out anyway. (I think a few mainstream authors have actually done that.)

    That said, it doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done! But we learn from mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, I’m divided on this. On the one hand I agree, take 50 Shades as an example. I could barely get through that book. However, I know people who loved and I do mean loved that book and the books that followed. Go figure. One mans trash, etc. So, the flip side is- I don’t believe there are any really bad ideas. Only badly executed ones. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a literary relativist. I do believe some ideas are so bad, they should have been flushed from the writer’s unconscious mind. And I’ve sat through several of the movies they made from those ideas (e.g. Santa Claus Conquers Mars). But most ideas are salvageable. The question is, are they worth the effort. I have in the past followed tenuous story leads, but usually, after two or three chapters, I realize I’m struggling with a story that simply doesn’t want to be told. I have to ask myself, given your investment in this idea, do you have one that could work better?

    I always do, and, if I don’t, the new idea reveals itself within the week.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think the only bad idea is persisting with something that isn’t working. I’ve done that. It may not be working for any number of reasons – it might work in five years when I’ve developed as a writer.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’ve done this too. It can be hard to admit something isn’t working, especially if you’re emotionally attached to it. I try to be optimistic though, by thinking there will be a time and a frame for every idea.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Exactly, it might just not be the right time. I have a feeling one of the stories I have spent an age not getting anywhere with will be one I will be able to write in around 20 years.

        Liked by 3 people

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