Story ideas are the fuel that powers civilisation, driving social, political, economic, scientific, and technological progress.
Big story ideas, too, are innovative, lead to success, generate excitement.
High Concept and Big story ideas
Hollywood calls ideas, such as the one behind Jurassic Park, High Concept. Pitch a truly big idea in Hollywood and producers and executives sit up and take notice. Suddenly, you are having lunch with all sorts of people who want a ride on your wagon.
So, how do you generate those big ideas?
The truth is that big story ideas, or the seeds of ideas, can come at you anywhere, anytime—from smells, sights, sounds, touch, distant memories.
But is there a way to force a truly big idea, at will?
Here again, there are prompts one can use: News and documentary programs, magazines, websites, books.
As a science fiction writer, I tend to sniff around in places were great scientific ideas are already in the melting pot. I once purchased a magazine published by Media24, aptly titled: 20 Big Ideas. The magazine identified 20 huge scientific topics that were in vogue: The ongoing search for a theory of everything, dark energy, the Gaia theory, quantum entanglement, catastrophism, chaos theory, artificial intelligence—to name but a few.
These are the topics causing a stir in the scientific and related communities, through journals, magazines, television programs, radio stations, Internet forums, and the like.
The point? Find a topic that fascinates you, explore the unanswered question surrounding it, and create your premise or log-line around that.
If you are interested in the search for a theory of everything, for example, you should probably know that it has to do with trying to explain the entire spectrum of physical existence, from the very small—the quantum world, to the very large—cosmology. You should know that trying to incorporate gravity into the quantum mechanics is the crux of the problem.
From there, you might progress along the following lines:
What if a young theoretician working under the guidance of a professor makes a startling discovery that will change theoretical physics forever? What obstacles could you place in his way, and what would be the motives of the antagonist in trying to prevent him from achieving his goal?
The same process can be applied to the topics of consciousness, artificial intelligence, and so on.
The next step is to develop the log-line and the one page synopsis along the lines suggested in numerous articles on this website, or others like it, before starting the actual writing of your story itself.
Big story ideas make for big stories. Track down big ideas by studying journals, newspapers, conference papers, television programs, and the like, then create your log-line or premise based on one of them.