Seldom, if ever, do story ideas arrive in full bloom. As mentioned in my August 1st post, “Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas,” any number of things can trigger an idea, and thereby plant the seed that may or may not grow to fruition. Sometimes the story is an idea beat to death (zombies, anyone?) or not worthy to pursue in the first place. As writer and creator, it is up to you to deem a project’s validity—therein the dilemma.
Is the idea unique enough to develop?
Prior to spending a year or more on a novel, a writer needs to feel compelled to tell the tale, and be willing to put in the necessary time and effort to complete such an extended project. The idea better excite you. The characters need to entice and intrigue you. For me, mystery draws me forward; I need to be surprised once in a while, and when I am, it’s pretty certain the reader will be also.
So, how do you know when an idea has what it takes to be viable? There have been times I have discounted an initial idea, only to have it keep reappearing, each time with either a new direction or perspective I cannot ignore. Let it happen; make notes. You never know where your subconscious might travel.
I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating until ingrained: it is imperative to not let any of the possible ideas fade, and they will if you do not write them down when they appear. There have been times, much to my chagrin, when an idea “pops” into my mind (whether a word, sentence, or scene) and I do not have paper or pen. By the time I gather the tools of my trade, the idea is lost or watered down so that I have a poor reflection of the original. My heart sinks; never again will the idea appear in its purest form. Still, I write down what I have; an under-nourished seed perhaps, but a burgeoning idea nonetheless.
In addition to being excited and having a special affinity with the characters, you need to ask yourself a few questions: how is the story unique from other similar writings? What events and plot twists will make yours stand out in the crowded field of stories that cross the desk of an agent or editor? How is the character—characters are the foundation of all stories—multi-faceted and how does his/her flaws work against reaching the goals you set forth? Is the resolution believable and natural within the confines of the character(s) and plot? Again, we come to the three C’s of any story or novel:
Because of the answers to these and other questions, a writer will know when he must write the story, deep in those private places where he converses with himself, that place where delusion is not an option, where emotions are flayed like from a butcher’s chosen blade. Tough questions, tougher answers.
Trust your instincts and you will know when that seed will grow to sapling, stronger still into a full-fledged tree, and then you will realize the fruit of your labors.
See You on the Next Page,
Important Note: Once again, the University of Iowa is offering their FREE online “How Writers Write Fiction” course. I participated last year, and will again; I learned a great deal about the processes of writing from fellow students . . . nearly a 1,000 from around the world, as I recall. Here is the invite I received and the link. There is no grading, no requirements; only honest feedback from other writers at various levels of skill. Recommended.
Greetings from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program!
Fall is in the air here in Iowa City, and we are delighted to invite you to join our new MOOC, How Writers Write Fiction 2015! Opening on September 24 and closing on November 24, 2015, this online course offers an interactive progression through the principles and practice of writing fiction. The course is open to everyone in the world, free of charge, and we’re excited to be teaching it on NovoEd, an online platform designed for interactive and creative community learning. Join us!
Learn more and sign up here
This Week’s Writing Quote:
“There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.” William Makepeace Thackeray