Sunday, January 5, 2014

Creating the Dog of Jesus 


Monday, December 30, 2013 10:20 PM

A recent reader remarked that she was disappointed that I had shared the beginnings of the seed of the idea from which "The Dog of Jesus" had emerged. (It is explained in the Afterword of the novel.) I can understand that the origin of such an unusual tale might seem prosaic compared to the final story.

But that is exactly why I chose to share the origin of the initial premise, because to many struggling writers everywhere who are looking for the next great idea, the concept of smashing log-lines together is completely unknown. To those who are seeking new ideas, any creative help or stimulus is pure gold. It is not my practice to smash log-lines together looking for ideas, but I was engaged in a casual conversation with my son about how desperately Hollywood screenwriters search for new ideas for spec scripts.

Screenwriting is often the complete reverse of novel-writing. In screenwriting, one often begins with a million-dollar idea or title and then works from the outside in, to create a story. Whereas novel-writers often work in the completely opposite direction, starting with a problem or series of problems, and then working outward to their ultimate solution.

For instance, in "The Enterprise Zone" I started with the concept of society on the brink, and states going bankrupt, and then wondered what the ultimate consequences of the privatization of our prison system might be. What would happen to a man in a prison-for-profit where there was no early release, and individuals became legal slaves?

Back when I wrote that novel, the idea of states going bankrupt was a foreign idea, and men being unjustly imprisoned for profit was science fiction. But it now seems rather prescient as one reads of the recent conviction of a judge who was unjustly convicting young people and incarcerating them into private prisons for a payoff from the prison-for-profit. Nowadays, not many people would have a hard time believing that states and municipalities might go bankrupt.

Back to the point at hand, creativity, and the origination of new ideas: I wanted to share one magic trick, (smashing log-lines), as an accidental starting point. And I here share the not-so-secret concept of screenwriters working from the outside in, whereas novel and story-writers usually work from the inside out.

What matters is the final product. If a story remains true to itself, and is logically consistent, and if it details real human problems, and showcases realistic characters who grow throughout the story, then the spark of creativity that started the fire, which grew into the final story is not really too important, except to those who might be searching for the next million-dollar idea.

No one knows how much God (or the subconscious) affects the mind of man, nor from what wellspring original creativity emerges. That remains a mystery.

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