Seven ways to breathe life into your novel or short story idea
Are you stalled at some point in your story or manuscript development? Or maybe you’ve finished a project and are jumping into a new one. Generating an idea for a novel is one thing, but how do you build it out into a manuscript? Maybe you’re looking at all the ideas you’ve collected, and you’re stuck about where to go next.
Breathe life into your novel ideas by brainstorming your ideas. Here’s where to start:
1. Ask the question: “What was happening in my life when I thought of this idea?” For memoir writers, this is especially powerful. Big life changes or milestones often spark new ideas. Whether you’re writing a memoir or novel, our inner selves drive themes in our writing worlds. Many novels are autobiographical to some degree — consciously or unconsciously. Our life experiences can’t help but inform the stories we write.
2. Do research. Robert McKee, teacher and author of the writing craft book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting, says that a common problem when writers get stuck is a lack of research. Delve into some aspect of your idea, and you’ll reveal new material that could change everything.
3. Write several practice scenes. Play. Pretend you’re making a prototype. Use this as a writing exercise.
4. Fall in love with a few characters. Make notes about several characters. They just might take on a life of their own.
5. Choose a setting. Settings can become huge elements of a novel and even drive action and plot forward by their very nature. How can your setting amplify conflict?
6. What is the conflict in your story? What would make your readers’ hearts race or give them that sinking feeling? How could you make it even worse? Who will have to die? Your novel must have trouble…big trouble. Finding huge conflict is the heartbeat of your story. (tweet that) Sketch out your ideas in a broad way. The details will work themselves out in the writing and revising.
7. The best idea builder ever is the question, What if? Writer Suzanne Main developed the idea for her children’s adventure novel when a teacher at a workshop asked students to select an object from a box and ask, “What if?” For more details, read her post, What’s the big idea? Generating the idea for a story.