Do You Share Your Story Ideas?

Recently, I came across this quote attributed to J.K. Rowling:

I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead. 

Within another day, I saw a fellow writer express similar concerns about “oversharing” her ideas.

This made me curious as to why so many writers seem to have this fear. Is there such a thing as sharing too much? Are there reasons why you shouldn’t talk about your ideas?

As far as I can tell, there are three main reasons why some writers argue against discussing your ideas:

The idea will sound stupid if you describe it out loud.

I definitely understand this. A new idea always seems so shiny and magical in my head. But as soon as I open my mouth and try to describe it to someone else, it starts to sound silly. I start to see the holes in the plot. All of a sudden, I start to feel vulnerable and embarrassed: Oh no, they must think I’m an idiot for thinking this was a good idea! I find myself hurriedly adding “it’s probably dumb” or “I know it’s clichéd” to the end of every sentence.

Someone might shoot down your idea.

It’s not a great feeling when you describe your idea to someone and they just stare at you blankly. Or, even worse, they say it sounds stupid (fortunately, this has not happened to me many times!). Or they say, “Hey, isn’t that the same plot as ____?” Reactions/comments like that can definitely make me start to doubt myself.

Someone might steal your idea!

I’m not super worried about this one. But I know some writers are afraid of having their ideas “stolen” by others if they reveal too much.

The question is: Are these fears legitimate? Should we let them get in the way of sharing our story ideas?

It depends. I can only speak for myself––but personally, I try not to let these fears get in my way. Do I keep some things to myself? Of course. But I’ve also gotten some of my most valuable feedback from discussing story ideas out loud.

Telling people about my ideas isn’t always helpful. Sometimes they’re dismissive, or their suggestions aren’t helpful to me. But I think the important thing to remember is that ultimately: no one knows your idea like you do, and no idea is written in stone. If someone doesn’t show much enthusiasm for your idea, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. It could just be their personal taste, or maybe you need to develop it some more. As with any constructive criticism, it’s not a reason to give up.

As for the risk of others “stealing” your idea: in my opinion, ideas aren’t trademarked and nothing is 100% original. I probably wouldn’t post an entire plot synopsis of a story online. But even if someone were to “steal” my idea, there’s no way it would be exactly the same. Of course, no one is forcing you to share your ideas if you’re afraid of other people using them. Personally, though, I’m willing to take the risk.


 

How about you guys?

  • Do you discuss your ideas out loud with others?
  • Besides the reasons I shared, what are other reasons you might hesitate to talk about your ideas?

 

UPCOMING: Tomorrow is #WIPpetWednesday! (Yes, I know last week it was called #WIPWednesday, but then I found out there was already a similar meme––so I will be joining in on that instead. Sorry for the inconsistency!) And I will have some exciting news to share. 🙂 Stay tuned …

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20 thoughts on “Do You Share Your Story Ideas?

  1. I rarely talk about my ideas, mostly because I don’t see the point. Very few people would be interested. The idea might get discarded somewhere along the long, or maybe not even get started. I’m not even sure why writers would want to talk about their story ideas. Maybe it’s a substitute for actually getting down to work on them.

    1. I guess it depends. A lot of my friends/family are curious about my work, so I feel comfortable talking with them about it and they’re usually interested. But of course, that’s not the case for everyone.

      As for why one would want to talk about story ideas: For me, it can be a way to sort out my jumbled thoughts and to bounce my ideas off someone else. It can help me figure out what direction I want to go with the story. At least for me, it’s not a “substitute” for writing, but a means of getting inspired. But of course, I don’t expect what works for me to work for everyone else.

  2. I only share my ideas with certain people, and I tend to share talk more after my rough draft is finished and I’m in the process of revising.

    My boyfriend shares his ideas with me all the time. So far it hasn’t hurt his motivation at all. Mostly I just contribute names and bad puns, which is just fuel to his comedic fantasy fire.

    1. Same here. Besides posting on my blog, I usually only share my ideas with close friends/family. For me I think it’s usually more when I’m in the planning stage, but I definitely also ask for feedback when I start revising!

  3. What does the “pet” in WIPpetWednesday mean? It sounds like it’s about whippets!

    I usually don’t discuss my ideas with anyone, but that’s because I’m an intensely private writer. I think people should do what they want.

    1. I believe it’s a play on the word “snippet” since it involves sharing a snippet of your WIP. 🙂 Yes, people should definitely do whatever makes them comfortable! I understand being private about your writing. Most of the time I don’t really talk with people about what I’m working on unless I’m really stuck, or if they ask about it.

  4. Most ideas are half baked. They need nurturing to become something more, and usually that involves a test chapter or two, or an outline. Some people will want to help and it can cause problems down the road if they want credit, or their idea is dismissed.

    1. I agree––usually I don’t really talk about an idea unless I’ve at least done some brainstorming/outlining first. Before that, it’s too disorganized to explain in a coherent way.

      And I guess it depends on the people you ask for help … I tend to only discuss ideas with close friends who I know won’t be offended if I don’t use their suggestions.

  5. I had a very Fight Club issue, where I was trying to tell some friends about an idea I had that I was working on and the next thing I know I found myself in the middle of a conversation about their idea. One word I said served as a springboard for them, I confess, it really made me feel like they just weren’t interested in what I had to say which was discouraging.

  6. I talk about my WIP novel with my partner, who has a background in anthropology and is really helping me a lot with world building. But other than that I don’t/haven’t discussed many of my story ideas with anyone. The best reason to share with someone (as opposed to the reasons not to) is if you know they’ll help you bounce ideas around and flesh them out some, rather than just using a chance to talk about your story as a chance to just think about it out loud. Constructive outside opinions are tremendously helpful if you’re stuck or need something you haven’t even thought about yet pointed out.

  7. Drunk Off Rhetoric

    I rarely talk about my ideas- not because of fear, but not many people bother to ask haha
    My husband is one of few people that I tell my ideas to, sometimes getting that “oh god, this sounds so stupid” feeling while I’m speaking, but I think that because I’ve only started focusing on writing recently and haven’t built confidence in claiming I’m a writer (in public) yet.
    For the most part I haven’t found telling people my ideas very helpful, since it’s hard for someone else to put in on a story idea unless they understand exactly what you’re trying to convey- which is ridiculously hard even for the person writing!

    1. Haha yes I know what you mean! A lot of the time it’s hard for me to describe my thoughts out loud, and when I’m telling someone else about my idea I feel like I can’t quite get across everything I’m thinking. Like I said, no one knows your idea like you do––so I think any advice has to kind of be taken with a grain of salt.

  8. I tend to keep the my idea sharing down to my hubby and my writers group. Too much sharing drains the enthusiasm before I even get started but the reactions of that small group help me fine tune the direction I am writing in.

  9. You can always still call it WIP Wednesday.. I will give you the Host’s url so you can check out her blog and keep an eye out for it. Sharing story ideas – well I’m a terrible speaker, I don’t know why. But I find that people don’t like to listen to my ideas either. It’s annoying. I love my story. The only people that care or listen are other writers, so unless your story is super crazy insane, it’s difficult to get it across and make other normal people care. Except for people who love to read. You really have to think about who you are talking to IMO. I remmeber as a teen listening to other people’s story ideas and being bored so I’m not sure why that is. It has to be the right environment. So the Hosts URL is https://keysandopenmind.wordpress.com/.

    1. Okay, thanks! Yeah, I’ve been thinking maybe I will still call it WIPWednesday and just share my WIPpet as a part of that. Thanks for the link!

      True––I think you have to find the right people to talk to. Other writers are definitely the most helpful. I’ve found that if I talk about writing with people who aren’t writers, sometimes they don’t seem very interested. But I also have a few non-writer friends who ask about my writing and still provide helpful feedback. In any case, I try to keep my rambling to a minimum so I don’t talk anyone’s ear off, lol.

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