We’ve been reading a lot of “Frog and Toad” books around the house, lately. They’re juvenile, but I’m really enjoying them. The author, Arnold Lobel, has an understated wit that sometimes flies over the head of youngsters, but is quite humorous.
Right now we’re reading “Frog and Toad are Friends.” (I HIGHLy recommend it. It’s a Caldecott Honor book, too, if you need more than my endorsement to pick it up.)
In the book is a short story called, “The Story,” in which Toad’s friend Frog is sick in bed and he asks Toad to tell him a story while he is resting.
Toad’s game for this, but he isn’t sure where to begin. So, for inspiration, he sits down and thinks about it for a while. He can’t come up with anything he likes, so he goes out on the porch to pace while he thinks. Unfortunately, this proves as fruitless as sitting and thinking. So, he comes back inside and stands on his head.
“Why are you standing on your head,” asked Frog.
“I hope that if I stand on my head, it will help me to think of a story,” said Toad.
Toad stood on his head for a very long time. But he could not think of a story to tell Frog.
Next, Toad tries water as a stimulant.
“Why are you pouring water over your head?” asked Frog.
“I hope that if I pour water over my head, it will help me to think of a story,” said Toad.
Toad poured many glasses of water over his head. But he could not think of a story to tell Frog.
Then, Toad banged his head against the wall.
“Why are you banging your head against the wall?” asked Frog.
“I hope that if I band my head against the wall hard enough, it will help me to think of a story,” said Toad.
This scene just makes me laugh.
There are days, like Toad, when I feel like banging my head against the wall when approaching a particular scene. I usually make myself a little note in brackets [write fight scene here] and then move on to the small stuff. I come back to the troublesome prose later.
Poor Toad’s problem was that he wanted a “good” idea for a story. My opinion: he should have run with whatever he came up with first. A bad idea is still an idea. It can be used up, embellished upon, and discarded (if necessary) later. Any idea is one you can work with. Dressing it up usually leads to others.
If you’re stuck: try writing about the first thing that comes into your brain. Use it as a thoroughfare to your next writing destination. You don’t need to keep it forever. Edit it out at the next pass. But use the idea to stimulate others.
In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a bad idea. There may be better ones, but how do you know until you’ve written it?