Wednesday, 31 August 2016

How to Turn an Idea into a Story.

Many of us, at one point in life or another, have had an idea to write a story. You've come up with this idea that is unique and interesting. Certain elements from things you love, combined with something amazing and original, that you really want to share with the world. It's absolutely amazing, and you have no idea why no one has told such an awesome story before! Technology today is making it easier than ever for the average bloke or sheila to publish a novel online, and there is no reason you can't do it too. I've had a few people ask how I managed to write and publish my first novel, Amulet of Aesterus, so I've written a small post on achieving that first step: turning an idea into a story.

Maybe you've grabbed a pen and paper, or jumped on the computer and written down some notes or ideas? Perhaps you've even started writing something epic, but you got caught up with your job, family, and everything else that makes life so busy. Maybe you've only thought about it, but haven't written a single thing? Perhaps you've already written a complete story and wondering what to do next?

Regardless where you are, the first thing to do is plan your story. Your story should contain five key elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and the resolution.

1. Characters
At this point I'm going to assume you have a good idea on who the (main) characters are in your story. It's a good idea to keep these characters true to themselves so they are believable. The tree hugging hippy that wishes everyone peace would seem a bit odd, if half way into the story, he began to murder bad guys, then go back to his usual persona without remorse afterwards. Same with a relentless warrior who never backs down, suddenly backing down, because he wants to be peaceful towards the protagonist who he had just met. I keep a separate text file with all the character's information for reference, (as well as other reference documents!). You probably won't have any issues memorising the behaviour of your protagonists. The dark merchant from chapter three who reappears in chapter twelve though, did he have a raspy voice, or masculine? Did he wear a hood or not? Reference sheet! Scrivener is an incredibly valuble tool for keeping track of anything and everything. I highly recommend giving the free trial a go.

 2. Setting
This can be as big, or small of a task as you want it to be. If you are writing a fantasy, sci-fi or anything in a world that is not our Earth, you may need to create the lore of the worlds in your story; the creatures, the technology, the currency, the weather and so on. Alternatively you could use the world we live in now, exactly as is, or with certain changes. If on Earth, where will the story occur, New York City or around the corner from an outback Aussie pub?
The most exciting thing about creating the world in which your story is set, is that you are limited only by your mind. I'm not going to go too far into the art of world building, as it is a massive theme, however I personally would recommend against spending too much time focused on this element. There's no such thing as spending too much time creating your world, universe and the laws, although if you spend spend too long in this phase, you might get stuck there permanently. You may also find it difficult to create a story within this world, especially one that takes advantage of everything you have created. The progression of your story, theme and characters may even make you want to go back and change some of the laws you had previously set in stone. At the end of the day, this is your world you are creating, so don't let anyone else give you any limits, but don't let it stop you from writing your story.

3. Plot
Once you have created your world, or figured out where you want your story set, it's time to figure out what you are going to write. If you know how you want your story to start, then start typing, get it started! The art of story writing is massive, deep and there is much to learn, but the most important thing to writing your first story, is to write your story. Learning and studying how to be a good writer is great, but means nothing if you do not get writing. If your goal is to get a fifty (or 75, or 100, or 500) thousand word story written, there is only one way to do it! The plot is how your story starts. What your characters plan to do. Maybe that's fight bad guys to save the princess, maybe it's about having a few drinks up the pub the day the aliens landed. Again, this is your story!

4. Conflict
This is where the story gets interesting. The conflict messes with the plot and really adds the excitement and spice to your story. If the protagonist was just drinking up the pub the day the aliens landed, had a good feed then finished with him going home to bed, it wouldn't really make a good story. If he got totally pissed, blacked out, woke up with an alien in his bed, the girlfriend on the couch and his dog now a dinosaur, you probably have a bit more of an interesting story. Retrace those steps and find that car, dude. 
Same with the hero going to save the princess. If he just walked up to the evil king, punched him in the face and took the princess, it would be kind of lame. If the protagonist was interrupted by ninja orcs on flying elephants who were going to blow up the princess unless the hero gave them next week's winning lotto numbers, it would be a little more interesting
The conflict is what will make your story exciting. You have set the scene, introduced us to the character(s) and we know their intention, but now this!

5. Resolution
Your story is going great, everything is in place, but it is time for it all to wrap up and give your story some closure. Endings don't always need to be happy and positive. Maybe the princess was in love with one of the ninja orcs all along, you had the protagonist kill him, now she hates the protagonist? Didn't see that one coming! Sequels are great too, but if you are telling a story, you really should finish with a resolve. Don't leave the reader in the dark until the sequel is released, give them a climax that has them screaming for more!

At times while writing your story, you will find you'll have bursts of creative energy and others where you are not so creative. I'd highly recommend you use and abuse these creative bursts as much as you possibly can. There are ways to help induce more creativity, (travel anyone?), but when you get in a slump, it can be difficult to get out. If you really do want to write, you will find a way to make it work. If you make excuses not to write, (work, family, tired), they will justify you never completing your story. Keep at it, work hard and you'll complete your story!