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  • Writer's picturetrevorcarterva .

Developing Ideas for Stories

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

One idea does not make a story. But one idea can branch out to other ideas, which can turn into a story. Coming up with an idea for a story is probably the easiest part of writing for me. And I get plenty of new ideas. I have a type of internal detection mechanism that analyzes those ideas. It helps me sort through the ones I think I can turn into a good story. There’s a certain process that comes into play once that happens. I let the idea gestate in my unconscious mind for a couple of days. If the idea is worthy of consideration, my unconscious mind will branch that idea out to other ideas. Now, we’re in business. I know then that I can seriously consider the idea for a story.

The different phases (or steps) I use to start writing, seem to work well for me. And I think they can work for you.

Phase I: I get an idea for a story. I begin to explore different themes for the story. By themes, I’m talking about the overall message of the story. For example, my story’s theme might center around good versus evil or some moral lesson. I think about how a certain theme will work with the story. I ask, ‘Will this theme work for my idea?’

Phase II: Letting the idea gestate in the unconscious mind. After you get the initial idea, try not to consciously think about it for a day or two. Then come back to it. Most of the time, when I revisit the idea, I either get other ideas related to it or nothing at all.

Here’s an example: Let’s say I get an idea for a science fiction story. The idea involves a group of explorers venturing off to a new planet. Maybe I have some initial thoughts about how to turn that idea into a story but I don’t act on those thoughts. Instead, I set the original idea to the side and let it gestate. Then, maybe a couple of days later when I return to the idea, it has branched out to other ideas. A group of explorers visit a distant planet and discover ancient ruins. They discover a sacred place that has strange artifacts. As they begin to explore that place, they encounter another lifeform. That lifeform threatens their survival.

Now we’re cooking!

Phase III: Character development. I start thinking of the different scenarios that could occur in the story and what types of characters I think would be best suited for the story. For example, I might want a protagonist who has certain flaws that will cause the story to go in a certain direction.

Then I think about other characters and how they might interact with my protagonist and what their relationship with them might be like. I keep one thing in mind during this whole process: conflict. A story without conflict is a very boring story. But there’s more than just the main conflict. In the science fiction example I used, the main conflict is already established: the explorers are going to have to face another lifeform that wants to kill them. But there will also be conflicts between characters—the butting of heads if you will. And I also consider internal conflicts; perhaps my main character has a fear that challenges him from doing what is necessary to help others survive.

Phase IV: This is the final phase. In this phase, I will consider the theme of the story, the characters, and the conflicts to decide if I’m on the right track. I find it’s always a good idea to play around with different types of characters and conflicts. Those characters and conflicts will often direct where the story goes.

Happy Writing!

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