Welcome to the first installment of Wednesday Writer’s Workshop, your place for great How-To’s to help you write your awesome story. Let’s get into it.
Brainstorming for a book is hard. It’s even harder if you have nowhere to start. This is something a lot of people struggle with including first-time authors, seasoned vets, and yours truly. I’ve read books or watched movies and wondered to myself, why didn’t think of that? Why couldn’t I come up with such a brilliant plot arc or dynamic character progression when that author or screenwriter could?
Let me say this first, that is comparisonitis. I’m guilty of it and so are you, but that’s not what this post is about. I want to write about how I foster ideas for books or short stories. Follow long, because this is how I put together a story and it’s written in a stream-of-consciousness.
I Use My World and Work Backwards by Asking Questions
The planet is an amazing place to get you started on the next great novel idea. Always be on the lookout to turn something mundane into the extraordinary. Let me give you a real example of a story that a nearly wrote (I may write it someday) and the process that my mind went through to recognize and flesh out an idea.
Best Wings in Town
Last year my wife and I were driving through Cincinnati on our way back from one of our favorite taprooms. Right before we were about to turn onto the highway there was a food truck sitting on the side of the road with a handwritten sign that said, best wings in town. We laughed about it and wondered if the food truck truly had the best wings in town. A few miles down the road I thought to myself, Best Wings in Town would be a great name for a short story.
How can I make a food truck interesting?
How can I make owning a food truck that has the best wings in town interesting? The food truck is a front for a money laundering operation. Lots of tension potential there. Where’s the money coming from? The owner is a former government operative and is now a for-hire assassin. Okay, backstory… what’s the trigger? Why tell this story now? He had a hit go bad and must go into hiding. He takes his food truck from Los Angeles to a backwater town in Mississippi. With such a premise it goes without saying that the story will end with the former hit coming back for revenge on the food truck owner; thus, a battle for survival.
How can I bring some internal conflict?
Now the story has an external conflict on the main character. He needs internal conflict. What if the town he settles in is his hometown and he reconnects with his remaining family? And… he takes his disgruntled nephew under his wing by giving him a job and nurturing in the wake of his dad walking out on his mom. Now, the character has an internal conflict of fitting into this small country town and reconnecting with lost family. This will go well as he will have to choose between his family/community and himself when the antagonist comes to town.
How does It End?
How does it end? The man from the botched hit, a former team member from his operative days, tracks the main character back to this little town and starts trouble. After a massive gun battle that wipes out part of the town (and the food truck) the main character kills the antagonist. He’s hailed a hero and helps the community rebuild. He forsakes assassin killing and opens a brick and mortar restaurant hiring his nephew as his first employee.
Ask Yourself Questions
Let’s recap and thanks for holding on during that insight into my thought processes. In the space of about 25 minutes on our drive home, I recognized something that stood out and created the title of a story. I had a central plot, protagonist with backstory, the antagonist with motivation, external conflict, internal conflict, rising tension, climax, and resolution. When you are thinking about your story, ask yourself questions. Start with the questions in this article and expand.
Inspired by Places
I know some writers are inspired by places. Maybe you are the type of writer where you could travel to Rome and walk through the old pagan temples. While there, you learn about the ancient rituals that happened in that space and get the idea to write a surrealist Sci-Fi story about how a futuristic society still holds to ancient practices.
Inspired by Themes
Maybe you write based on themes and don’t like how the cosmetic industry uses animals as testing subjects for new products before they go to human trials. You then decide to write a story where a young girl falls in love with a man, but she cannot get over the fact that he runs a company that does experiments on animals. The story shows her as she tries to get him to close the company, picking her over his business. Here you have a romance with a critique of the cosmetic and sports nutrition industries.
Always Keep Your Eyes and Mind Open to New Things
Write what speaks to you. Always keep your eyes and mind open to new things. It is important to figure out what kind of idea builder you are. Personally, I’m driven by getting the title of a book or story. I then expand on that title. My title is my thesis. Some authors are driven by places or things. Perhaps you are the type of writer that is driven by a theme. There are hundreds of ways to draw inspiration. Think about what drives you. Once you realize how your own creative style works, then you can open the floodgates of creativity.
Thank you for reading this installment of Wednesday Writer’s Workshop. Please like, share on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ if you liked it. You can follow me, Ryan A. Ross, on Twitter @ryanthebossross. Don’t forget to check out the Archives, there’s a lot of great stuff including the Daily Download and Friday Fiction Breakdown.
Please comment below on things you would like to see me explain How To write.
Side note, if anyone ends up writing, Best Wings in Town, I’d love to edit and post it to the site. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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