You have the basis of a story idea, and now you’re wondering what to do next. Having a thousand good ideas are great and all, but unless you can figure out how to flesh them out into a story, then they are the equivalent to mental masturbation. Luckily you, dear reader, you have come to the right place. Not for the masturbation part, but the ‘flesh out my ideas part.’
In this week’s blog post, I will go over some strategies on what you can do to turn your basic story idea into something that can form a novel or three. To start off the post, I will discuss some different types of ideas that you may have and questions to ask. Please note that these are generalizations and it is okay to deviate as you see fit.
The Basic Idea
Each basic idea, or melding of ideas as I discussed in last weeks post, starts off a different set of questions. The ideas come in all shapes and sizes, from small cute things to massive gargantuan, all-encompassing-ideas. This is an essential point to understand as no two ideas are the same and can’t be looked at the same way.
No matter the story idea, the first I do after the basic idea is selected is assign it a genre. Genres are unimportant, yet one of the most critical aspects to any story. I will go over this later in more detail, but for now, genres allow for the easy conveying of information in a story without having to write a college thesis on it.
Basic Idea Type: Character
I have written a few books based on a cool character that I could not get out of my mind. With characters, I start my questions with them. They will be things like age, hair colour, weight and then moving onto more important aspects. Upbringing, past experiences, political leanings, etc. In short, I will create the character– when creating story ideas based on a single person, it is easier if you have a full character in mind. But honestly, those items have little importance to a story idea.
Once that is done, I will start to piece together small parts of the world. Please note: this is not world building. Not yet. Story idea creation will often meld into world-building, but at this stage, it is not essential to go into those details. Right now, it is important to flesh out what the story will be. If it is a military sci-fi and the character is a Captain of the Royal Guards, then who is he the guard of? What nation? What war? Has the war started? Who are they fighting?
That last question is important, once you get to the subject of the antagonist, unless it is man vs nature, there should be a bad guy. Who is the nemesis causing the Captain all the sleepless nights? He or she should be well thought out following one of my rules that the antagonist should be as well thought out as the protagonist and he should be the hero in his own story. That will be a subject of a future blog post, but it is an important post. Unless you want a bond villain, from the enemies POV, he should have some type of justification for his actions.
Once the villain is selected, then the conflict can come out. Conflict equals story. If you need to fill three books of ninety thousand words, then it should be complicated and well thought out, yet easy to summarize down to a single sentence to answer the annoying question of what the story is about.
Basic Idea Type: Thing-a-whatsit
Sometimes, you may have an idea of a cool thing. A beater sword. A mech warrior. A magic system. Whatever. Like any story idea it will start first with setting the genre, but this type has a different importance to selecting a genre. If you have an idea about a really cool laser rifle and you want to write based around that, then knowing the genre changes things. If it is a sci-fi, there is little that you need to explain for the essential functions. There are enough tropes in the sci-fi genre that will make it easy to tell.
However, what if the laser rifle was in a fantasy setting? How would it work? Magic? Some type of crystals? Imagine the possibilities.
Taking the idea of the laser rifle in a fantasy setting, the next step is to flesh things out and expand. I recommend selecting a cool main character to use the rifle. However, you can go to the world and start to piece it together. Who is fighting who? Are they fighting? Who is the enemy? What type of conflict is it? It can be a man vs man, but it doesn’t have to be. You could use the fantasy laser rifle idea and write a man vs animals and monsters just as easy.
Basic Idea Type: Scenes
I have written a story where the first idea that I had was a single cool scene. To start, after I selected a genre, I fleshed things out. I did some world building and created the conflict. Then I picked the character and kept building.
Did you notice the similarities between creating stories using a basic story idea method? They all are based around creating a character to write about in a specific genre with a conflict to propel the story.
Once you have the basic building block, build it up piece by piece making sure to keep the idea that the protagonist and antagonist need to be fleshed out and worth reading about.
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