I have an idea for a story, now what?

I have an idea for a story, now what?

Recently, I listened to a TEDtalk about ideas. Nothing new, right? Except that this idea talk gave me well…an idea. I realized from listening to the speaker that there are stages to story development. Stories really do NOT come to us full-blown. More like the slow building of a balloon filling up. Since it is on my mind, and I think some of you may appreciate the info that I gleaned, I have decided to do my blog post about ideas and story development.

Six stages of story development

First off, when an idea that could be a story comes to mind, we have to put it in what I like to call “the interrogation room“. Don’t be afraid to ask big questions, those what ifs that have to be asked in order to know if the idea is strong enough to stand for 400 pages. Treat that idea like a suspect in a murder. Find out where it is from, what it has been doing, if it knew other ideas and how it came to be in the same world. Ideas are pretty loose-lipped. If you spend enough time with them, sooner or later, they will TALK.

When asking questions surrounding your idea, more questions will arise and the process will go on until you move into the second phase.

Secondly, research your ideas and see what you find. Every aspect of an idea likely will need to be analyzed. Research the history, the myths, the legends, even the possibility that it won’t work because it is too improbable. Put that idea in the place I call “the library“. Stack those research books high, and go through each one of them. But just remember, don’t go down rabbit holes. Don’t spend ALL your time in research and forget the purpose of your hunt.

And just know that not ALL research goes into the book. Sometimes you work from the position of an expert when you know a lot about a subject, but your reader doesn’t necessary need to know everything you know.

Third, let the ideas germinate. You’ve birthed the story idea, you’ve researched the world around it, now just give it room to grow. Keep thinking about the story. Allow thoughts to come and also allow your idea process to discard things as well. Some things just won’t work. Just like in gardening, you have to plant AND nurture. This part of story development happens in what I call “the greenhouse“. Put that story idea in the prepared ground of your mind and water it and allow it to poke its little green head up through the dirt.

Remember that story ideas like seedlings can be destroyed by an unexpected freeze at this point. Don’t be so quick to share this idea now. Other people who do not understand the story, or the process, won’t be very positive. They can actually nip your story idea in the bud.

Wow. This blog post is already at 500 words, and I don’t want to bore anyone. I will save the last three story idea development tips for next time.
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About master

Kim Smith is the author of Disk of Death, The Dread Room, Love Inn, and An Unexpected Performance.

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