Humans are idea generating organisms. Face it. You couldn’t live one moment without thought generation taking place.
But how do we take those random ephemeral spears of mental images and create a story line from them?
Psychologists and other specialists have their theories. As a writer, though, my only concern is developing my own method for such creation. And since I’ve been doing this for most of my life without analyzing it, picking apart how I do it has presented a challenge of its own.
My story ideas always begin with a flash of image, as do most peoples’. They can stem from a memory or fragment of one. An idea trigger can also come from a commercial, a single image within a movie, or during a reading of something as innocuous as a print ad.
The flash of story occurs, sometimes as only a fragment and sometimes as a full-blown story with a complete arc, characters, and setting. It takes over the brain in a tide of sensation. However it happens, writing is the difficult part and the most time-consuming.
I, like every other writer/poet/artist must bring forth an interpretation of that idea for the pleasure or edification of others.
The process of that fleshing out of ideas, however, can cover a varied landscape of stair steps.
- Deciding on the main character (s), if we don’t have that piece of the puzzle already. And how many other characters will feature
- Choosing the proper setting and detail for the story
- Choosing the time duration for the story (one day, several days, months, years, or a lifetime
- To use subplots or not
- Decide how entangled those subplots are with the main story line
- Will the story need more than one book and how many. If more than one, will they each stand alone and be linked through a master plot, be independent of each other with only the setting as the link, will they be told sequentially or at random, and does each story line have consequences that are reflected in following books.
And these points are only the first of many decisions made. Looks daunting, doesn’t it? It is when you get right down to basics. If a writer was mindful of all these considerations at the beginning, she’d probably quake, shake, and refuse to go past the first couple of points.
The thing is—writers aren’t necessarily the most rational beings. Even when the “writer” is a village storyteller, those points aren’t part of the conscious process. The story gets told in as logical a manner as the storyteller can produce, either by voice or pen.
Dramatic effects and description enter the picture. The story becomes a performance in itself. We can listen to it or hold it in our hands. We can desire it to be true with such intensity that we fantasize about taking part in it (fan fiction.)
The peculiar part is that we’re programmed for it, for telling stories, for using our imaginations on a daily basis. Creating stories is a pastime we all share. How do I know?
Everyone daydreams, whether they’re conscious of it or not. And daydreams are merely stories we tell ourselves as opportunity and boredom arise.
So, tell me. What stories ideas have you generated today? Want to share them? Good. Leave a comment here. Share a smidgen of one story idea. Next month we’ll see what we can brainstorm around its core—maybe do a bit of flash fiction together.
I’ll see you all again in a couple of days. Happy writing, all. And have a terrific weekend.