Turning Ideas into Stories
Ideas come in all manner of ways. Inspiration is the atom that starts it all. From inspiration we get ideas and from ideas we start to create. And when we get creative, we get productive.
Ideas often happen without us having to try. Sometimes they pop into our head fully formed, while others are but small seeds and need some nurturing and development. They might happen because of a memory or personal experience. They might form because of something seen on the TV. Or an incident. Maybe a time period inspires writers. Sometimes they feel strongly about something and they need to write about it.
Ideas can come from anything, anyone and everything. And the best ideas come when we don’t force them.
But even with the smallest of ideas, bigger things grow from it. We do this by adding more ideas, because everyone knows that ideas create even more ideas. That’s how we form plots and characters and so on.
But how do you turn that single idea into a story?
Start at the beginning, with the premise, whether that’s two people who fall in love, a story about a ghost, a group of friends on vacation, or it could be about a kid who falls through a hole in space and time. Whatever it is, that’s when writers get to be the mad professor and come up with all manner of notions and concepts and crazy ideas. In other words, it’s a good old fashioned brainstorm.
Some people go all out and draw mind maps or line graphs, or they make thorough outlines or draw sketches of scenes that they ‘see’ in their mind. Others take a simpler approach and write some notes. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as the process creates.
Then ask the following questions:
Who might the characters be? Whose story is it? Who is the bad guy? From characters we can build on their backstories and develop them into fully fledged people that we can connect with.
What are their reasons for being in the story? What motivates them? What drives them? What are their goals? What do they want to achieve? From reasons, we can find answers. When we give them motives, we also find actions and reactions and we’re able to build these into our stories.
When is the story staking place? The present? The distant past? The recent past? A sense of time or history acts like an anchor for the story. It will also dictate how characters behave and talk. This can also inspire the writer for further ideas based on the time period.
Where is the story set? An inner city estate? On board a spacecraft? An exotic beach? Or lots of locations? Again, location can give rise to lots of other ideas with the story because sometimes that story idea might actually start with a location rather than a character or an incident or memory.
Which perspective to use? First person, past or present, or third person, past or present? Each one has advantages and disadvantages, so the perspective is something to carefully consider and experiment with.
Lastly, why is the story happening? This is the question that creates the plot. Why is the question to everything.
When writers have an idea, the fun part is taking all these elements and throwing them into the cooking pot and seeing what they create. A single idea breeds more ideas. That’s when the creative juices flow, when writers get into that excited phase of creating a story.
Remember, why is the question to everything. And the best way to turn an idea into a story is to just get on and write.
Next week: Writing stories in both past and present tense