The webcomics blog about webcomics

Did I Say Back To Normal?

Make that normal-ish; a power outage in Manhattan (thanks, superstorm!) resulted in Fleen’s hosting being up, yet unable to connect to other resources necessary to actually appear on your brain-boxes for a period of time yesterday. I haven’t seen it recur, but I’m also not self-browsing all day long; should you see problems crop up, feel free to drop a line to gary at this here site.

In the meantime, let’s return to one of our recurring themes: ideas. Raw material destined for refinement, currency, object of sacred communion, or more common than dirt — everybody’s got an idea about ideas. They form the center part of Matthew Inman’s latest comic, an eighteen screen behemoth about creating on the internet (which touches on many more things that just ideas, and includes a nicely-argued support for my own personal rule of browsing¹). The ideas section talk about where they come from, and leads to a particularly useful metaphor of ideas not as discrete items, but as the generated result of a process, here described as a river².

Nobody’s idea-river (or pond, or pool, or puddle, or superstorm) is going to produce exactly the same quantity of ideas any anybody else’s, or the same quality for that matter. Although distinct, they will often bear striking similarities to others, to the point of cliche. Enter Ryan Estrada, remarking over Twitter how tiresome he finds the overused concept of The Prophesied Chosen One. Tiresome enough that he comes up with his own twist and throws it out for others to use:

Story idea: A crazy old man just tells hundreds of kids they’re the chosen one, hoping that by law of averages, one of them will succeed.

He just looks up their details on Facebook when they enter his cave so it sounds authentic.

Someone steal this idea, I’m too bored by chosen one stories to even write a parody of one.

Maybe it’s like a ‘thing’ in the kingdom. All the creatures know that whenever a stranger walks by they go “are you HIM?”

There’s just like, a mountain of dead chosen ones outside the villain’s castle.

I’m in favor of this — tossing ideas out, seeing what people can make of them; there will always be germs of stories or gags that you can’t see a way to use (cf: Chris Hallbeck’s professed inability to use ideas if he doesn’t draw them right away) which are doing the world no good cooped up in your brain. If it’s something that you can use later, great, tuck it away, see what becomes of it; but if it’s something you aren’t ever going to use? Throw ’em out there and see if somebody can use ’em:

A Director falls in love with an extra. But due to union rules, he is not allowed to speak to her. Has to communicate through assistant.

The obvious thing is that she would fall in love with the assistant, but if you’re gonna steal my idea, please make it better than that.

I just love the idea of a romance story centered around an obscure film industry union rule.

I don’t think that Estrada really meant “steal” in that middle quote, but I think he was quite serious about wanting to see his open-sourced idea not be used in an obvious way; just because you don’t have the time, inclination, or vision to shepherd an idea through to fruition doesn’t mean you want to see it treated cavalierly. So if you share an idea with the world, feel free to make a suggestion to spur maximal creativity in its usage; if you use an idea so offered, do your best to not be lazy or obvious in its development. Ideas might be more common than dirt, but there’s still value to be found with a bit of care.

¹ “Never read the comments”. The only regular exception to this rule is The AV Club, and they’re less amusing now that Frakes doesn’t get to reminisce about his wild times on the TNG set all the time.

² Complete with beaver slap fights, which are awesome.

Two webcomics are already doing great twists on the “chosen one” that are very similar to what Estrada suggests: Cucumber Quest ( and Godsend ( Goes to show that you can get a lot of mileage out of twisting cliches (and where Cucumber Quest does it with humor, Godsend does it much more seriously).

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