‘Severance’ And The Value In Ideas

by Frank Martin

The strange thing about writing: coming up with ideas is the easy part. Everyone has ideas. Even non-writers. Just walking down the street, people’s minds are constantly at work. Every thought is a potential story idea. The difference between a writer and a non-writer is the ability to take that idea and flesh it out into a plot with characters. But the question still remains of what to do with that actual idea. Do you use it as a mere jumping off point to concoct a story completely separate from the initial idea? Or do you use the idea as the foundational fuel for the story itself? These are the questions writers have to deal with and that is where the difficulty lies.

Take the movie Reminiscence for example. The film is actually three films in one. It takes the notion of memory, climate change, and the neo-noir genre to craft an original detective story starring Hugh Jackman. Any one of those three concepts can be separated on their own. But rather than focus directly on those ideas, the filmmakers decided to jam them all together and merely use them as a springboard for something else. Each notion is touched upon, but never fully realized and addressed on their own.

This is in contrast to the AppleTV+ show Severance, which contemplates what it would be like if an individual’s memories were separated between their personal life and their work life. This show could have taken that idea and merely used it as a springboard to tell a completely original plot separate from the idea in the same way that Reminiscence did. Instead, the show takes that very philosophical concept and breaks it down over the course of the season. It wrestles and grapples with the idea rather than pushing it aside.

Although you can take these two examples and see which one does it better, there’s no one right way to develop idea. It’s merely the preference of the storyteller and what type of story they want to tell.

The first season of Severance is now streaming on AppleTV+.

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