Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Hooray! The world can always use more stories.
But where to start?
Honestly, I believe a story can spark from almost anything.
A book you read. A movie you watched. Song lyrics. A brief exchange between two strangers on a street corner...
My first story grew from a love of Christmas. And a desire to share some of the fun holiday traditions my husband and I celebrate each year.
But that’s not really a story, per se.
It’s a seedling of an idea.
I needed conflict.
So, I did some brainstorming. Which starts with the question…
What if I had a character who hated Christmas? And she was forced to participate in one festive tradition after the next?
Perfect. Now, we have some conflict.
But what possible reason could there be for a person to have to celebrate Christmas? Someone who hated the holiday would need some pretty strong motivation, wouldn't you say?
What if… she was down on her luck? No job. Barely able to pay rent. Nothing is going right for this poor soul. Then, she’s presented with an opportunity that could change everything. An inheritance, maybe? Hmm...
What if… to claim this life changing inheritance, she has to perform 25 days of festive activities? Yikes. She wouldn't like that very much, would she?
Excellent. Now, we’re cooking.
According to K. M. Weiland, founder of helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com, it all starts with asking “What if.” Let the ideas snowball and write down everything that comes to mind.
Other questions to consider are:
What natural conflict arises from this scenario? What’s the story’s antagonistic force? What are your protagonist’s goals and motivations? What secrets are your characters hiding?
Asking these four questions can unlock all sorts of story ideas.
To dive deeper, check out this article on K. M. Weiland’s blog.
By the way, her website is chocked full of helpful articles, so don’t be afraid to poke around!
Okay, now that you’ve written down all of your ideas, it’s time to craft your outline.
Or, if you’re a panther (someone who writes by the seat of their pants), you can start putting words on the page and see where the characters take you.
I prefer to have a general road map, giving myself permission to veer down a dirt path if inspiration strikes.
Fun fact: In the first draft of The Clause in Christmas, I never intended Luke to propose to Cassie. And Jack Gardener was only supposed to appear in one scene. Now, he's getting his very own novel!
Below, I’ll list a few books I love on story structure and outlining. But if you’d like some great free resources, please check out the wonderfully informative Reedsy blog and the Self Publishing School.
In the end, make sure you're having fun with it! Resources are great, but we all have our own process. So, don't be afraid to experiment and play around with different techniques. You never know what will stick!
Books I Love:
1. Story Genius by Lisa Cron
2. Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
3. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
4. From 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron
Above all... write. :)
***Some of the links to books and products I recommend use an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you. If you'd prefer not to use the affiliate link, you can type the book title directly into the search bar of your preferred retailer.***