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We’ve all had that moment where we’re struck in the head by the muse with a great idea. As soon as you got the chance you ran to a keyboard and started banging away like a monkey trying to reproduce Shakespeare’s best. You beat the everlovin’ unicorn poo out of that keyboard and when you’re all finished you read your final product and you ask yourself this question:
What the hell is this shit?
Never fear! We’ve all had this happen before. You have a great idea, you put it on paper, and the great idea seems like a spastic two-year-old wrote it and LIFE IS TERRIBLE AND I’M GONNA GO DRINK MY FACE OFF UNTIL I WANT TO MAKE OUT WITH MY HAMPSTER.
Um…okay. Maybe that’s just me.
Do you even concept, bro?
Now you might find yourself asking a few questions. How do I stay inspired by the lumpy turd I just produced? How do I stop myself from word vomiting a steaming pile on the page? Why, DEAR GOD WHY, can’t I just take my idea that has infected my medulla oblongata and make it full of awesome?
There are no perfect methods to navigating this particular confluence of idea and implementation but I think I can help you out a bit.
1. Define the Concept
It’s really easy when you first come up with a concept to dive into the deep end and just go crazy with the word slinging. There’s nothing wrong with this until you get to the end of your story and realize it’s crap, it wasn’t what you wanted at all, and all the damn cheese puffs and Mt. Dew are gone.
I know. It’s very disheartening.
The key to avoiding this, in my opinion, is that you need to define the core of the concept. Write down the core concepts. Do it for everything. Characters, plot, scenes, setting…you name it. Get to the core of these things. What makes them so interesting to you? Pull off the layers of the onion and dive deep. You’ll find what really make your motor hum with these ideas with a bit of practice.
2. Take the Core and Make it Sing
After you’ve identified the core, it’s time to get rid of all the extraneous crap you don’t need. If a particular idea doesn’t seem to fit into the scheme of things, toss it. Take it out back and beat the bastard with a baseball bat if you have to because the goal is to get lean and mean here. Do I need that alien? Newp? Chuck it. Do I need this setting? Newp? Cut it out. Get to the heart of the story. A good story will basically boil down to the following things: a character, a setting, external conflicts, and internal conflicts.
3. You have the framework now build the house
Here’s where you really start fleshing out the story. Take all those elements above and add nuance. Build your character, build their world. Develop the external conflict and make sure the main character is central to it. Slap a lot of love on the internal conflict and make your character as conflicted as you can. Spend a decent amount of time on these things. Experiment. Don’t settle for the easy way. This will take some effort. Keep in mind the length of your story as well. You must be concise with short stories and you can expand a great deal on the novella to novel length works.
4. Make a short but sweet outline
Not everyone likes to have an outline. I get it. You’re edgy and you’re just gonna let it all flow out of you like that time Johnny got dysentery on the Oregon Trail. I, however, find that it’s easier to finish stories if you have a pretty clear map of where you’re going.
The areas I like to define in order to give me plenty of wiggle room for change are thus:
- Character Motivation: What drives your character to continue of the path you’ve put them on? What defines them?
- Starting Point: What is the world and your character like at the beginning of the story?
- Turning Point: What is the defining moment of your main character? How do they get to the end game of the story? What makes them grow as characters?
- Ending Point: By the end of the story, where is your main character mentally and personality wise?
While doing the outline, you should also think about any supporting characters. This is your moment to inject them into the story.
4. This will take practice
While I believe this strategy will help you carry out your goals, you should remember that this method may not work for you. Being a writer means experimentation and finding what works best for you. Keep in mind that there is no “right way” of doing things in this arena. Sometimes you just have to do what feels right and fuck all the conflicting information that’s thrown at you. True story. Don’t give up, though. Never give up.
That’s it for this week. Fly safe out there. o7
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Also published on Medium.