The Craft of Fiction – Ideas

This was a hard one for me. I debated if I should post this or not. People ask me where I get my ideas and it’s a really hard question to answer. I’ve always got ideas rattling around inside my brain like marbles in a tin cup, clamoring for attention. The hard part for me is writing fast enough to keep up with my inspiration. I need about 52 more hours in each day to do all the writing I want to do.

My best advice on story ideas is; keep it simple. You should be able to put your idea into a single sentence. Any thing more will be too complicated for one book. Ex: Jake Noble needs money to pay for his mother’s cancer treatment and the CIA offers him 150k for a seemingly impossible mission. One sentence long but it made a pretty good tale. The same is true of Pirates Never Die. A pirate captain is captured by the British and given a choice; she can either hang or go in search of a treasure with a deadly history.

Good story ideas don’t have to be complicated.

But don’t take my word for it. Take it from a best selling author: Jim Butcher. I’ve added a link to his live journal where he details his own writing process. Mr. Butcher’s web site is an excellent recourse for any aspiring novelist. I’ve copy pasted all of his writing advice into a Microsoft One Note notebook and refer to it often. There is enough in there to take anyone from beginning idea to finished product. Seriously, if I had to choose between a college course on fiction writing and Butcher’s website, I’d take Butcher’s site. It’s worth at least six college semesters on the craft.

Take Butcher’s advice and keep your story ideas simple. One sentence. That’s all you get. Write it down in an idea journal. I use Microsoft OneNote.

While you are coming up with your story idea, make sure that it has intrinsic conflict.

Many would be authors have story ideas completely devoid of conflict. They pitch ideas that are basically a day at Disney Land. Their characters never meet any opposition. Where is the fun in that?

Pirates Never Die is a good example of a story idea with built in conflict. Betsy can either swing at the end of a rope or go in search of a treasure on a haunted island that no one has ever escaped from. Noble Man is another good example. Jake Noble has to find a kidnapped girl with diabetes before she goes into shock to get the money his mother needs for treatment.

No one wants to read about a guy with a great job and a loving family that never has any problems. People love to read about a guy with a great job and a loving family that loses everything and has to win it all back.

So, keep it simple and make sure there is conflict built into the idea.

And if you don’t believe me about conflict ( why wouldn’t you?) listen to a short lecture from Kurt Vonnegut. He’s made a few dollars in his day.

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