Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Next Big Thing

So, you want to write a great novel or the next best TV series? Well, there is one important element to begin it all that stands in your way. Story ideas. Are they easy for you? Or do you get frustrated in trying to come up with ideas for your novel or script? I'll admit, I'm half and half. I can easily come up with a story idea, concept, or small scene, but to flesh it out into a well-developed, strong story? A little more challenging. Creating a sold story idea takes time and an intensive amount of thought.

Today I'll share with you some ways you can come up with great stories ideas. Some of these I've experienced for myself, others I found on reading blog posts from other sites but I consider to be helpful.

First of all, determine WHAT kind of story you are going to write. Are you writing a short story? A novel? Perhaps a screenplay.

Your genre is obviously a very important piece to the frame of the puzzle. In order to determine this, think about what kind of books you read and enjoy the most or what movies you find yourself renting a lot. More than likely you'll understand and feel comfortable with that particular genre and will be able to bring out the most of your passion. By setting these limits for yourself, you can better concentrate on getting a base idea.

Do you need to set these limits in the first step? Of course not. Perhaps an idea will just come to you and from there you can determine how you wish to write it. However, if you're not sure about your idea, you may enjoy the more structured aspect of this first step.

Now, here are some fun ways to come up with a good plot. I may specify that I'm thinking "do this" for a screenplay or "do that" for a novel, but they can all go either way! :)

Let's center our attention on books for the moment. A personal goal in my writing is to take an original story and add a twist to it, something unexpected. Let's take that idea with some well-known literature; what would've happened if Dorothy had followed the red brick road instead of the yellow brick road? What if Edmund was the first to travel through the wardrobe? What if Frodo had not been the one chosen to carry the One Ring to Mordor? Would Dorothy have ever met Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion and found the great Oz? Would Peter, Susan, and Lucy been captured and killed by the White Witch? Who would've ended up carrying the One Ring, and would they have succeeded? Those are just a few questions to get you started, because there are so many more you can come up with if you think about it!

Another way I find inspiration that relates slightly to this is fanfiction. I like to add characters and plots to a favorite story or movie and see what happens. I don't always write this down, sometimes I just daydream about it, but this creative angle is an incredible boost to my inspiration. Pretty soon, you may find yourself developing a whole different story. However, I caution with this. Make sure you do not plagiarize the story your own stemmed from. Don't be afraid to find inspiration from your favorite authors, but analyze! Make your own!
Let's go back to the twist. Think of something that happened in your life, whether it was a big or small event, everyday moment, heartbreak, disappointment, or love. Twist it and think, "What would've happened if it had gone this way instead? Is there a story there?"

Now, let's take screenplays. A great way to find script ideas is to what? You guessed it: watch movies! Watch lots of movies, or watch TV shows if you want to write the next hit sitcom or TV series. Observe what makes the story work. Is it the characters? The action? The witty comedy? A different idea I've gotten from researching this myself is trying to watch silent movies or watching a movie with the sound turned off. Sound odd? Well, it did to me at first, but then I really thought about it and realized this is a great exercise. More than likely you'll be able to follow the plot fairly well, and you'll really be able to recognize what makes the story flow from a physical perspective, how the characters relate to each other, and how setting affects a story, ect.

Another great way to develop a screenplay is to read good screenplays. Learn how different playwrights use their own technique in a script and discover which way fits you best. Observe how the characters are developed and how the plot moves along. Also, read bad screenplays and learn what DOESN'T work.

The other day I wrote down a list of questions I would ask myself for a movie or TV show I would watch to critique what I thought about it. (I geared this particular list for a tv show.) This is also a great exercise that relates back to what I said about observing what makes the show work, and let me tell you, I had the best time digging deeper into the reasons why I loved what I watch. You could do this exercise for books as well. (If you're interested in doing this yourself but aren't confident in what kind of questions you'd use, let me know and I'll include my own list in a future post - I'd also be willing to include an answered set of my own.)

So shut off your computer, put away your phone, grab a pencil and piece of paper and go some place where you feel the most inspired, and THINK. I hope you find yourself coming up with story ideas that make you excited.

Let me know: What techniques and exercises do YOU use to create ideas?

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