I talked about coming up with ideas here but now I want to go in depth with ideas and how we can model them.
Before a writer starts working on their plot outline, the smallest piece of thought must be born first. That small, independent thought is an idea. I already described how I randomly come by ideas and pick them for future use, but ideas can be more powerful and deserve our attention.
An idea is a concept as well – love, hatred, vanity, justice. It’s abstract, it’s pure, it’s universal. Any of these can be a source not just of a story or a novel but a series!
I have designed a three stage process that should help you with developing your ideas. It’s very simple and can be done quickly with positive results. It’s more of a brainstorming technique than a formula to success, to be honest.
When you have a picture in your mind, do a game of associations, try to follow the path
of all the ideas that come to your mind. Follow the trails of your thoughts. The best thing to do is to make a mind map (just like in the picture, but you don’t have to try as hard).
You should have a creative tree of ideas related to the parent idea that should be in the center.
Now that you have a family of ideas, try questioning their position, try imagining the details. For example, your parent idea is a town where nothing ever happens. You add corrupted local government, you add a subculture of young people whose only joy is drinking all day long, you add a summer heath, lack of water and a lot of dust to it, you add a local religious cult to it. What do we have? Not so boring, if you ask me. But now, I’d probably exclude the cult, it doesn’t really fit in with the rest. So, I’ve questioned the cult, scratched it and I’m left with other ideas. Why is there a lack of water? Is the corruption related to it? Where does the local mayor’s interests lay? What’s the cause of massive alcoholism? Does that make a good story about a young man who gets trapped in his stale life?
Now that we question (and answered) our ideas, we should put them one against the other. If I said that the town was suffocating on dust, but also said there were unstoppable rains the whole summer, it wouldn’t make any sense. That’s why I contrast all the ideas. The same way is if you write a mystery and find that a certain sentence or a certain event reveals to your readers who the mastermind behind the conspiracy is – you exclude it, you change it!
These should help you to brainstorm before you start plotting with the real techniques for story development. Check out my tips for plotting here, there are some interesting tricks you could use while brainstorming and plotting!