Taking the Plunge

 

The idea for a story has been born. A story that needs to be told. A story that has purpose, a cause, and a belief. What’s next?

The beginning of my writing adventure was messy. It had a teetering foundation but a foundation nonetheless. The first thing I did was write the skeleton of the story. Even though I didn’t know what happened in every chapter, or even how one chapter would connect to the next, I had to write every detail of what I had imagined so far. I needed a base. A foundation from which to create. Write every detail of the idea from beginning to end, even if it doesn’t flow. Write a synopsis. Don’t worry about the holes in the story or sub-characters you have not yet considered (relatives, friends, co-workers), just write what you know in the moment.

After you’ve flushed out the entirety of your idea, review it. Be sure the why in your message bleeds through the skeleton. The next step I took was to compare what I had written with a list of what a good story needs. This list was given out by one of my creative writing professors. It is a loosely compiled list to answer the question: “What does a good story need in order to be, well, good?”

Here are the responses:

  • A Message – a reason the story needs to be told – the belief, the cause, the why
  • Depth – take the reader to a deeper part of the psyche that normal day-to-day living does not allow
  • Change and Suspense – movement or curve-balls
  • Culture Immersion – a glimpse into a lifestyle, culture, history, passion, era
  • Unique voice without being “teachy” or “preachy”
  • Coherent – easy to follow
  • Easily identifiable and relatable characters
  • Dynamic characters – characters who grow or benefit from their adventure
  • Resonate with humanity
  • Be descriptive and detailed to paint a clear picture without cliché imagery
  • Believable antagonists and believable conflict
  • Generally, but not always, readers want the conflict or dilemma to include redemption
  • Great dialogue – helps plot movement, helps build intensity, and can make the reader feel a part of the character’s lives

Compare the above list with your skeleton. Allow these comparisons to spark new additions to your idea. If something comes to mind as you think through what a good story needs write it down. Start a list of any and every detail. Use your phone or a notepad – a place these notes can be compiled. They will come at the most random times – while driving, buying groceries, or trying to fall asleep, the smallest detail or unexpected movement in the plot may come to you. Write it all down.

Allow yourself to observe and ponder life around you and how it might weave into your story. Everything is essential here, let your mind wander. Don’t limit or set boundaries. I had such a terrible time allowing myself to see possibilities as endless. I was certain there were rules and boundaries from somewhere telling me what I could or couldn’t add to the novel, but silly me, there were none! This type of support and belief, in your imagination and your evolution of the story, will be useful sooner than you think. 😉

 

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