Finding Your Story
“Write what you know: your own interests, feelings, beliefs, friends, family and even pets will be your raw materials when you start writing.” -J.K. Rowling
Welcome to the beginnings of your story! This class is a tool to unleash the creative world, creatures, plot twists, and dynamic characters slumbering in your mind. Therefore, I will not tell you what story to write. Instead, I will provide several idea-brewing options.
Lesson One can also provide options for idea development later in your writing endeavor. This will be the lesson to revisit should you need more inspiration or encounter Writer’s Block (though we will specifically address that dilemma as well).
While coursing through this lesson, keep in mind that I will ask you to devise at least three story ideas, each presented with a small synopsis, from which you will draw your final writing project. If you already have a story idea, then you still need to devise two more. You may use these extra ideas for a future story, or to fill in blanks and flesh out your story.
- Dreams. Several authors cite dreams as their best source material. When writing fantasy and/or science fiction, I fall into this group. For this project, make a list of dreams you’ve already had that might serve as inspiration. If you cannot remember any, then consider keeping a dream journal for one or two weeks. You might struggle to recall dreams at first, but do not be discouraged. Chances are, you will recall more dreams the longer you journal them. My current story is based upon a dream I had about a dragon. Yes, I dreamed about a dragon. Yes, it was awesome.
- “That would make such a great book/movie.” Have you ever said this? Can you remember what idea inspired you to say it?
- Story Dice. This is a purchasable tool available online and in several local bookstores. The dice show images depicting several character, plot and setting options and are fun to throw and see what combinations land. However, you do not need to purchase story dice to take advantage of what they have to offer. You can easily make flashcards with the same elements as the dice. Essentially, these dice are a fun way to randomize various story element possibilities. In my experience, they are more effective for short stories, children’s books, or individual chapter ideas. I will provide lists of options in the forum should anyone want to try making a set of cards.
- Ask your audience. A fun option is to identify your audience prior to deciding upon a story, and then ask them what they would like to read. While my current writing project was inspired by a dream, it was my potential audience (my son) who prodded me to commit to the story.
- Talk with others. Sometimes the mere act of pitching fledgling ideas with peers can awaken greater possibilities that otherwise might lay dormant. Discussing with other can also expose weak story ideas, plot holes, or overused elements and prevent you from committing to a possibly dissatisfying project.
- Outline. If you have an idea, but are unsure of its potential as a full story, then consider playing with some of the advice discussed in Lesson Two. Within an hour or two, you can fill out simple a grid-based story outline inspired by J.K. Rowling’s outline method. Oftentimes, filling in the blanks conjures up more ideas.
Before committing to a story idea, consider this piece of advice from Patrick Rothfuss:
“When you’re a geek for something, it means you love it beyond all sense. I always encourage people when they are attempting to do world-building to focus on their passions.” -Patrick Rothfuss
Do you have more advice for story formulation? If so, please share your ideas with the class in the Lesson One forum thread.
The assignments will guide you through the rest of Assignment One, including your final story choice, audience, and beginning character development. From there we will move onto the outlining process in Lesson Two.