What do you do when your muse always gives you schlocky ideas? Write them anyway. This is an article on taking your kitsch inspiration and running with it.
Witching Hour Whims
Ever get one of those late night story ideas, one of those pillow premises that won’t let you get to sleep? Your subconscious goes to work before your consciousness can clock out. It’s dream drafting, telling you a story. You should’ve been asleep hours ago, but you want to know how it ends. One minute you’re staring at the alarm clock, the next minute you’re booting up your computer. In an hour, you go from trance typing a treatment to the cognizant composition of a cliff-hanger. There’s a thud against the front door. Looking through the blinds, you spot a car pulling out of the driveway. That was the newspaper.
Whatever clock inspiration is running on, it isn’t in your timezone.
The next morning, the story is a quiet whisper beneath the noise of your routine, a murmur beneath the bristles of your toothbrush. It has none of the charm and confidence it had last night. After work, you page through what you’ve got. The hook is clever, but it doesn’t say anything about you on a personal level. It’s a fresh idea but not the profound epic you aspire to write. It’s not the journal entry that’s going to trick the world into falling in love with you.
There’s an audience for your sunset scribblings, but they’re looking for mindless entertainment. They want popcorn page turners, not deep reads. It’s not enough to get your work seen, you want to make an impression. You’d rather enlighten than entertain. The problem is, if you ignore every sleep deprived spark, you won’t know what to do with real late night lightning. You have to work on crap, before you can handle something with merit.
When you get a third-rate idea, use it to churn out some bronze caliber work. When you get a harebrained scheme, find the strands of silver in it. When you get the materials for a straw house, spin it into gold. When life gives you lemons, make something with pulp in it.
Inspiration rarely gives out straight flushes. Play the hand you were dealt. See your story through. It might set you up for the cards you need to go all in with later.
J.R.R. Tolkien had to write The Hobbit before he could tackle The Lord of the Rings. George Lucas had to put in his time with THX 1138 before he whisked us all to a galaxy far far away. George R.R. Martin wrote five novels, dozens of episodes of The Twilight Zone, and Beauty and the Beast before he tackled the Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series.
So your story is too simple to be a Pulitzer Prize winner, maybe it’s a cult classic. There are B-Movies in the Criterion Collection. There are character actors on the Hollywood walk of fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is full of guitarists who only played power chords.
Let’s face it; bad taste, tastes great. If War and Peace is on one side of the shelf, and Salem’s Lot is on the other, I can tell you which way I’m leaning.
Your story might be a cheesy cornball dripping with sap, but it’s value depends on how you serve it. If you serve it as a gourmet entree, your diners will be disappointed. If you serve it as a fattening state fair guilty pleasure, you’ll have some satisfied customers.
You have to put out a large quantity of schlock before you can put out anything of quality. You have to refine your imagination before you can cash in on your big idea. You have to question your ability to write a blog entry before you can be certain you know how to write a novel. You have to give your work away before you can option off the movie rights. You have to write paperbacks before you can earn a coveted dust jacket.
Take those witching hour whims and roll with them. Play the odds. You’re far more likely to find a story that works when you see each of those twilight triggers to completion. So what if the idea is a little far fetched. So what if it’s a convoluted high concept mess that takes an hour to pitch. Does it hold your attention? Then it has that going for it.
One person’s piece of crap, is another’s golden turd. Just because it’s trashy, doesn’t mean it’s a throwaway idea. This need not be your magnum opus, but rather your dime store offering. Your story need not shift our world view, just flash some pretty lights in front of it.