Liver-Flavored Toothpaste Can Work
In my last post I talked about Jeffrey Deaver’s idea that writers produce products in the same way that say, Colgate, produces toothpaste and that professional working writers don’t write about non-commercial subjects. Like say, a children’s book with a sympathetic pedophile protagonist in the same way that Colgate doesn’t market liver-flavored toothpaste. It might be the best novel ever written or the most authentic liver-flavored toothpaste ever. But the disgust factor will override any literary or prophylactic benefits without any of the usual joys associated with prophylaxis.
Nevertheless it’s all about knowing your market. Just as Liver-Fresh Toothpaste might work well in the pet market, The Nice Man in the Raincoat might be a real hit in a certain demographic. One that involves cross-stitching probably.
Liver-flavored toothpaste ideas can sometimes work if they’re not quite so liver-flavored. If someone had come up to me forty years ago and said, ‘It’s a musical about the dead wife of a deposed Argentinean dictator,’ I would have said ‘Huh?’ And yet we have Evita, so who’s to know?
I think there’s a huge misconception that the idea makes the work. Sorry, but this just isn’t true. If you’re a writer, you’ll be able to relate to the following scenario:
Dentist at a party: I’m a dentist.
Me: Oh really? I was almost a dentist once.
Dentist: Really? What stopped you?
Me: I decided my heart wasn’t in other people’s mouths.
Dentist: What do you do now?
Me: I’m a writer.
Dentist: Really? I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
Me: Well I’m not stopping you.
Dentist: Listen. I’ve got a great idea for a book. It’s science fiction. It’s about mutated clams taking over the oceans and destroying the ecosystem. It’s called Revenge of the Mollusks. What do you think?
Me: Well it could work.
And I mean it. Sure, it’s cheesy, but Revenge of the Mollusks, if well written, could become a major franchise. It could spawn any number of sequels, Night of the Mollusks, The Clams of Chowder Apocalypse.
So I’d never discourage anyone from creating liver-flavored toothpaste. I’m telling you that it better be well-made, well-packaged liver-flavored toothpaste.
Can you think of a book or movie or story in any medium that has a crazy premise but actually works on the strength of its execution?