An Island of Ideas

Starling 12
2 min readApr 4, 2021

Idea: Plotline

Genre: Various

Pitch: A common trope, from Homer’sThe Odyssey to the more recent Lord of the Fliesand Cast Away,is marooning a character on some uninhabited island. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Black Stallion, Swiss Family Robinson, etc., many movies do it. The character, or perhaps a small group of characters, is isolated from the society that supports them and suspended in an uncertain future. Perhaps they will be rescued tomorrow. Perhaps they won’t be rescued at all. Sometimes there is something mysterious on the island with them — or not. And perhaps I am alone in this, but I have found marooning situations to be…

…A little boring.

It can be neat to think about; how youmight find yourself in that situation, and what you might do to survive. Would you build your dream house out of twigs and leaves? Would you like being free from your responsibilities and pestering neighbors? Or would you break down from the isolation? There is appeal to marooning tropes, yet they generally go the same way. It might be neat at first, but the character(s) have mental breakdowns and their effort is usually washed away by the ocean. They might persevere, but eventually the island is only a burden until they are rescued and returned to society.

But these circumstances provide such unique opportunities to writers. Characters under this kind of pressure will act very differently. But instead of clawing their way to survival and depressingly losing their previous ideals, they could develop and grow. Often, when a hero is put under extreme circumstances, they rise to the challenge. Marooning is different, however, because a) they are alone, b) the situation is drawn-out into an undetermined amount of time, rather than a few hours or weeks of threatening danger, and c) the only possible goals are survival and/or escape. The threat of the story isn’t some bad guy attacking the good guys and trying to pry them from their ideals; it’s the good guy’s own, unopposed, will to survive.

This could be spiced up. On an isolated (maybe even unmarked) island, anything could happen. Perhaps the character could discover the remains of pirates, and a captain’s log. Or an ancient, abandoned civilization. Or perhaps, if the author is feeling fantastical, a group of sea-creatures, mermaids, even. Many great stories are centered on relationships; don’t leave your character alone. Don’t totally maroon them.