This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

A Cool Idea Just Doesn't Cut It

I've been hanging out (online) with writers a lot, and I hear them talking about this awesome idea they have for a story or a unique twist that will make their plot awesome. I smile and give them the proverbial thumbs up, but I always find myself thinking, "Is that ALL they have? Are they banking their entire book on an awesome twist or unique idea?"

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about cool ideas. You have no idea how thrilled I was when I opened the first pages of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson to discover that the main characters had magical armor that I could understand. I was exhilarated to read the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and discover the first true fantasy con artist.

But was it these "unique" things that kept me coming back to the book--and every sequel published since? Sadly, it was not.

The reason that I come back to these books time and again is the fact that they are so much more than just a cool idea. There is real depth and pith to the books. Perhaps there is no deep moral truths, but if you've read Sanderson, you'll know that he adds a bit of philosophy and theology into just about everything he does. Scott Lynch's work focuses A LOT on overcoming the weaknesses of your own personality.

Without something deeper, it's going to be nothing more than a "cool idea". Yes, you may have the very coolest character, world, or group of ideas in mind, but there has to be something to hold people's interest and CARE about the ideas. Without that "something deeper", you're going to fall flat.

In this day and age when the market is flooded with more books than anyone could read in a lifetime, there are far too many "cool ideas" and nowhere near enough depth. Don't let your book be thrown on a mountainous "to read" pile just because all of your time and focus went into those cool ideas, and not on the people and the deeper stories that will hook your readers.