How to Write a Novel – Crafting Your Core Idea – Writing Tool #10
This tool is deviously simple. Do not overlook it. If you thing this through, really think it through – you will save yourself countless rewrites, have more control over your material and be in a much better place to pitch your material when it is done!
It all starts with the idea.
Your core idea is something you will live with for years. Do not short change the process of clarifying your idea.
Most beginning writers love the excitement of getting words on the page. The problem comes when they reach the midpoint and they are unsure how to keep the conflict going – or worse – they finish it only to realize that there are tons of holes throughout the story line and that much of it needs a big old fat re-write.
What is the solution?
Take your time to craft a solid story idea.
A solid story idea is one that can be expressed in 1-3 sentences. The reader can easily understand who the story is about along with the central conflict that the hero is facing.
A soggy story idea is one where the protagonist is not clearly defined, there is no clear cut goal or forward moving action, the theme is unclear, the stakes are low and the conflict is hard to understand.
Creating the Strongest Story Idea Possible
At this moment, you may have a fully fleshed out idea, or you may have just the kernel of an idea. Either way, it’s a good exercise to answer the following questions.
This is a simple but highly effective tool to help you define and clarify your idea.
Answer the following five questions:
WHO ~ PROBLEM ~ GOAL ~ STAKES ~ ENDING
A SOLID story idea can identify these five elements swiftly and cleanly.
A soggy story idea wanders – and cannot answer all five elements.
1) WHO do you want to write about? (can be a person, family or ensemble of characters)
2) What PROBLEM does this person/group face?
3) What is the GOAL of this person/group?
4) What are the STAKES/ are the stakes high enough to sustain an entire story?
5) How does the person’s/group’s journey END?
Important last question: Of these five elements, which one is unique or bold?
Where most writers go wonky: They do not have a clear enough goal. Their goal reads: My main character, Nick wants to find love. Or My Main Character Lola, wants a successful business. These are NOT SPECIFIC ENOUGH GOALS. Think: what is the physical manifestation of those goals. For example, maybe for Nick, who wants to find love, it means meeting Jenn, Surfer Girl (specific, something the audience can track and understand. For Lola, replace “successful business” with the a pizza place that has a line down the street on Friday nights (specific, something the audience can track and understand)
Where writers get confused: Does my character have to achieve their goal? No! that is up to you and to the story. For example sometimes the character’s goal is something that is bad for them – something they only think they want (like all the money in the world) and in the end its a tale about getting what you really want/need instead of what you think you want. Or your story may be a tragedy where the character tries for something good for them but is not able to achieve it. Making your goal specific is the key- the ending is your business.
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