Alright, guys! It’s what you all have been waiting for.
We’re finally about to start From Beginning To End: The Story Crafting Method.
In the last article, I introduced this new series and encouraged you to figure out why you write. That simple step will change everything about your process and keep you motivated through the hard days.
We’re officially kicking off this new series. I would love for you to share it with any aspiring writer whether a new-be or a practiced professional, so they can follow along with each new installment!
Are you ready?
How This Will Work
So, I’ve decided to start us off with a little roadmap. Did any of y’all ever do those pick-the-plot books?
Well, this is called Pick Your Process.
*And always remember guys, these are just tips. Don’t stress if one way isn’t working for you. You are unique therefore you will have a different process than me and the writer next to you! Salt to taste!*
Today, it’s all about finding your story idea. I’m going to be slowly stringing through this Pick Your Process through the articles to come so that I can give tidbits to whatever stage you’re at. Now, there won’t be as many twists and turns on this one, because, in the beginning, the advice is pretty much the same!
Rules: Start at the beginning, find what applies to you, and then go to that number. It’s that simple.
Part 1: The Story Idea
- DO YOU…
- Already have an inkling of a story idea? This could be a character idea, a genre idea, or a setting idea. This really could be anything. The difference between you and the others is that you already have some sort of direction instead of starting from a completely blank slate. (Examples of this could be: I know I want to write a hate-to-love romance. I know I want to write a dystopian. My character is a thief, farmer, magician… I want to write a re-telling of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid. The list goes on and on.) If this is you: go to number two and just look over what might be helpful for you! Next week we will be going over more of refining that story idea.
- You’re at a blank slate. You don’t have a specific inspiration or character idea. You’re at ground zero and you’re ready to start brainstorming. If this is you go to number two.
2. THE BASICS
- Alright, my friends! I’m so glad that you’re ready to start brainstorming and make your story a reality. So, I have several methods for you to figure out and test different story ideas. I would honestly try all of them to refine your idea!
First, the WHAT-IF method. If you want a more detailed explanation go here. The What-If method is simply asking yourself the question: what if____? It is incredibly simple, yet a great way to sprout your imagination.
Second, the W.D.I.L method. Another question that’s simply: what do I love? This might seem odd but let me explain.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV)
One thing I’ve struggled with is the idea that I have to write a PERFECTLY new story idea. Let me break it to you, there are only a few stories in the world! What do I mean by this? There have been studies that humans usually write stories that have similar plots, characters, and settings, OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
Why don’t we throw away that fantasy that is SO like Lord of the Rings? Why do we read re-telling after re-telling of fairy tales? Why do we like certain tropes, genres, and cliches?
Because we love them.
If you compare some of your favorite stories you’ll find that they can bare some similar resemblances to another. And if it’s a good story it will always resemble the One True Story: the great battle of good against evil.
There is a fine line between fan fiction or plagiarism and just learning from authors to inform your idea. So be careful but always understand that you never can write something out of nothing. You are learning from other books around you, informing you what good writing is and what attracts you.
So first, open up a journal, get out some nice highlighters and pens, a cup of tea, and sit in a relaxing spot. Make this as enjoyable as possible for yourself! Don’t stress about finding the ‘perfect’ idea right away. Take it from me, it NEVER works. Stress only creates groping after stories and ideas that are not the best fit for you. Then the never-finished first chapters start piling up.
Okay, here is how to do W.D.I.L.
Before you think about characters and plot, first think about what theme or message you want to convey. You see the message through the characters is what gets us through the story. Read this (Part 1 on theme) and this (Part 2 on theme) to understand more. Look through the Bible, watch the characters display God’s overarching theme. Take a journal and write out what matters to you.
Ask yourself these questions:
If you had one last message to give before you die, what would it be? What is most pressing on your heart? What have you experienced? What lessons in stories have impacted you the most: sacrifice, love, forgiveness?
Once you’ve figured out what message you want to string through, story-building will become a lot easier.
2. The Basics
I really just call these the basics because while they might not be the deepest story questions ever, you have to answer them to have an idea of where you’re going.
Very important. Genre, especially in the world of published fiction, helps us categorize and lets readers know what they’re getting into. Now, you probably have some idea of what you want to write. It’s usually what you find yourself reading the most.
Here are some genres and examples if you’re looking for ideas.
- Science Fiction
- Action & Adventure
- Historical Fiction
These are just some examples that can then be broken into mini sub-categories.
Sometimes people even blend genres which can take the imagination and craziness to the next level.
You know of this as well. Age, reader. An adult fantasy is probably going to be a lot different from a middle-grade fantasy.
- Young Adult
- Middle Grade
- Early Reader
- Picture Books
Now some books do transcend these so-called ‘boundaries’. Ages 5-102 can love and enjoy The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. So, don’t be afraid of these guidelines, thinking you’re putting your book in a box. You’re just clarifying your path and giving it room to grow.
Another crazy important thing that I don’t really HAVE to mention.
Will this be
- A short story
- A SERIES WITH LOTS OF MINI-SERIES
- A SERIES WITH A MINI-SERIES AND A GRAPHIC NOVEL AND A TV SHOW
Yeah, I dream.
Now, there are many basics out there but those three really tighten down your spectrum of WHAT you’re writing.
You could be writing a Young Adult, Contemporary, or Novella.
Or a Middle Grade, fantasy, series.
Or an Adult, Thriller, short story.
The skies the limit. So figure out which one of those ideal targets best suits your theme or story.
Now, finally WHAT DO I LOVE?
Once you have found what you love in a message, genre, age, and length, it’s time to turn outside.
Remember that notebook?
Yeah, we’re still using that.
Start writing down EVERYTHING that speaks to you. I mean it. this is what I did and it was so helpful. In my experience, it was so beneficial to write down ALL the things I love about a story.
You can list it off into categories:
- Characters: What characters do I love? Why do I love them? What was their character arc? Personality? What made them unique? What characters do I not like?
- Plot: What plots do I like? Calm ones? One based on the character’s decisions or just whatever the author wanted to pull on the character? One full of plot twists? What kept me gripped through an entire novel? What plots do I not like?
- Setting: How did this setting keep me engaged? How did the author describe it? Did it reflect the message, plot, or characters in any way?
Sometimes I even write out a list of my favorite characters and reasons why I loved them so much. Then, I start writing everything that I want to write. My lists can be scattered and unorganized but here is an example after one brain purge.
- A sister story
- Some character that is *somewhat moody*
- Very lush and over-the-top setting
- Dramatic plot twist!
- A grand sacrifice of enemies-to-friends
This can be SO fun and will already be analyzing certain parts you want to have in your story before you begin!
Alright, so in conclusion, we discussed the basics this week. We went over how this Pick Your Process will work, the WHAT-IF, and the W.D.I.L method. the basics, and journaling what speaks to you and what you would be excited about writing.
Next time, we will talk about sprouting an idea from these seeds and letting it grow into something that can fill tens, hundreds, or even thousands of pages!
Hit the reply button and tell me what works to start sprouting your idea. Did you have to purposely think or did it just come? Better yet, tell us your idea and let us rave about it!
See ya and keep writing!