Idea development.

by J.B. Hendricks
(Alberta, Canada)

Question: When one only has a setting, or a character, or a short scene as their idea/inspiration, how do you develop that into an idea that would support a full story?


Answer: I would suggest you ask yourself a lot of questions about your initial idea.

For instance, if you have a scene, you might ask what happened before or what happens next, or why this happened.

If you have a character, you might ask a lot of questions about who they are, their history, their desires, etc. Then perhaps ask what the biggest challenge or problem they might face in their life.

If you have a setting, ask a lot of questions about who might live there, what challenges would someone face living there, etc.

It's a good idea to make a list of all the possible questions before starting to answer any of them. Try to ask open-ended rather than yes-no questions. You want questions that could have any number of answers. Also, sometimes very simple questions (e.g. "How old is this character?) can open up a wide range of possibilities for a story.

On a separate day, take out your list and for each question brainstorm as many possible answers as you can. Remember that in brainstorming, you write down every answer you can think of, even the crazy, far-out ideas you know you would never use. Push yourself to create as many answers as possible. Go for quantity rather than quality.

Give yourself a lot of time for this process. It may take several days/sessions.

On another day, go back over your lists of possibilities and circle the ones that interest you the most. Make note of ideas that work well with each other.

Then write an expanded summary of your story concept that incorporates the ideas you've circled.

Feel free to repeat this process several times, since ideas often inspire new questions.

Each round will lead to a more developed story.

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