There’s a phrase that is frequently used to mean doing whatever you want to do, and so on. It is ‘free rein’.
The meaning of ‘free rein’ alludes to a rider on the back of a horse giving the horse his head and letting him go wherever he wants to, without stopping him, letting him wander at will. In creative work, it means letting your imagination loose and following it wherever it goes.
It’s the kind of thing that spurs the creative imagination to produce something. Whether that something is new or a new version of something else is up to the imagination of the person who is bringing something new to life.
In the current crop of movies such as the Justice league series and the Star Trek retro Captain Kirk films, there isn’t a whole lot of anything new. Same thing with the Jurassic Park and Star Wars prologue and epilogue movies – It seems to just be the production studios wanting to cash in on what has worked before. It’s a rehash and/or retelling done mostly because the original movies worked, were popular, and there may be some money to be made – or not.
The problem with rehashes and prologues created after the story is written instead of ahead of it is that it frequently seems contrived. If you have a popular TV series from the 1960s (Star Trek) with an episode (Space Seed) that later becomes a movie which finishes the original story (Wrath of Khan), then you have the beginning and the end, and it works. If you have a movie in which a giant drooling ant (Alien) kills off everyone but one crew member, who wakes up 60 years later, can’t find anything but the barest level of work because her credibility is doubted and then is recruited in the next part of the story (Aliens) to go fight the giant drooling ants again, you have a finish to the story. But when someone decides to fiddle with the story because there weren’t any of the (excuses) techno-junk items available originally that are in place now, it somehow doesn’t work very well. It seems contrived.
It’s as though the original creator of something didn’t think his whole story would be accepted by a studio or publisher, and he crawled into his closet to pick out what might work instead of presenting the entire story.
This is why the “what if–?” questions are so valuable to creativity. It isn’t “What if nobody likes it?”
I’ll give you a piece of advice: nobody will like it except you, so get over yourself right now. And it does not matter. Not one tiny little bit.
On your worst day, you can come up with more new ideas that will work if you give them a chance than an entire investment bank full of Harvard MBA grads.
The point is that you do not need approval. You need to take your story or idea from start to finish, even if it takes you half a lifetime to figure out how it started and how it ends. It’ll keep you busy on snowy winter nights when the streaming on your TV is boring the living daylights out of you and you only have it on for the noise.
Get an AM/FM radio instead, maybe one with a CD/DVD player. Choose a station you like and let it run in the background. With no images to distract you, you can focus better. Spend your time with your brain and wake it up.
Ask yourself the following question about a popular series of movies, like the “Mad Max” group: What if the first “Mad Max’ movie took place on Ceti Alpha VI, where Khan and his tribe from ‘Space Seed’ were dumped by Captain Kirk, but before they arrived? In the “Mad Max” series, that planet is green and growing, but there has obviously been a disaster of some kind, unnamed but implied, and civilization is falling apart. In “Road Warrior” (Mad Max II), the planet is starting to lose its green growthy state. By ‘Beyond Thunderdome” (Mad Max III), the desertification is nearly complete, and Max is found by a bunch of refugee children. By ‘Fury Road” (Mad Max IV) the planet is almost as barren as the Atacama Desert in Chile and water is nearly nonexistent. There is one more episode: “The Wasteland” (Mad Max V), but it is not yet in production, so here we stop.
So what if Mad Max takes place on Ceti Alpha VI, but Khan and Max never come across each other because they are on different continents?
It’s not that there are no new ideas. There are plenty of new ideas. I used to carry a small 5×8 spiral notebook in my draggin’ bag (briefcase) with my lunch, on the bus, to and from work, so that if I had an idea, I could record it right away. Sometimes, there were plenty of ideas, and sometimes nothing. This is much later, and some of those ideas are coming to life. Others? Meh….
But you get the idea, right? Okay, then let’s take a hard, hard look at making your creative ideas come to life. Start in the middle if you like, but ask yourself why did this happen this way? There, in the answer to this question, is the start of your story.
J.R.R. Tolkien worked out the history and legends and geography of Middle Earth before and while he wrote ‘Lord of the Rings’. He knew where the story started, because it was part of an old, old legend that he came up with, but it affects everyone in the present of the story that was published. History becomes legend and legend becomes myth.
J.K. Rowling worked out the history and progress of the Harry Potter story so that she had a guide to follow to bring those stories from start to finish.
The “free rein” part comes into play in those histories, character outlines, and plot lines, but the guides and summaries and tons of notes are guides on the journey to get the story completed. They are not four walls surrounding you and boxing you in.
It has taken me a very long time to work out the start of a story that I began to write in 1989. Now I know where the Bad Guys come from, and when, and how very bad they are, and yes, I still have the ending to work out, but it is a twisted, looping, torturous route that doubles back on itself like a mobius strip. I’ll get to the end. The beginning was more important. The end will write itself.
There are no bad ideas. There are only ideas that got lost in the fog of being busy. If anyone ever says to you, ‘Oh, that;’s no good, that won’t work’, you can politely respond with “Thanks for your feedback, but I’m taking the time to make it work. You have a nice day.” And go on about your business.
You have a nice day and take good care of you.