So, you’ve had an idea for a novel. Perhaps it’s a character, a scene, a location or even a plot point. Whatever it is, it has inspired you to put pen to paper and write a novel. And that’s great! Problem is, while your idea is AMAZING, it’s likely not big enough to fill 400+ pages. At least, not yet anyway.
So, how do you develop your seed of an idea and help it grow into the beautiful and blossoming story you know it can be? While the task may seem daunting at first, don’t let that discourage you from taking the time to develop your idea. This is possibly one of the most fun and exciting stages in writing a novel. This is your opportunity to play around with ideas (some entirely ridiculous) with literally zero consequences. Embrace this challenge and just have some fun with it.
To help set you on the right track, I am going to share with you 3 things that I do to develop my ideas into a complete story.
‘What if ?’
This is the first thing most writers do after they have an idea for a novel – ask ‘what if ?’
What do I mean by asking yourself ‘what if?’ ? Essentially, there are no limits to the questions that you can ask yourself, but if you want to develop an idea quickly, begin by asking questions that you think will help flesh out your story.
- What if xxxxx happened?
- What if xxxxx overhears xxxxx?
- What if xxxxx lived in a city made of xxxxx?
You get the idea. Eventually, you will hit an idea or topic that interests you and you can then work to solidify these ideas by asking other related questions such as:
- How would this affect the characters?
- How would they feel?
- What would do?
Apply these questions to the different areas of your story (plot, world, characters) and see where they take you. If you like where an idea is taking you, hone into that area deeper and focus on the finer points. Before long, you will have a general idea of some of the things you will want to include in your story.
Research gives characters, setting, plot and everything in between more credibility and, therefore, make our stories appear more real – but it can also be a useful tool in the early stages of story development. Once you have exhausted the question phase, research the elements that you are beginning to like about your story. If, for example, you are writing about mythical creatures, begin by researching the myths and legends surrounding that creature. You will likely find a nugget of information that could inspire a new character, scene, world, or if you are really lucky, the basis of your main plot. Continue to do this for each aspect of your story (characters, locations, government, animals, etc) until you have a rough plan.
There is something about sitting down and scribbling down ideas that really gets your mind ticking. Now, the way in which writers scribble down their ideas differs from writer to writer. I, personally, like writing down bullet points and branching off from ideas with arrows. While this is a rather messy method, my mind seems to like the way in which the ideas can flow across the page.
In comparison, my writing partner prefers mind-mapping (spider diagram). We could be working on the exact same story, bouncing ideas off each other, and our notes will look nothing alike. So, find what method works for you get scribbling.
Do you have any tricks for developing story ideas? If so, share them in the comments. I would love to give them a read.