I’m always getting ideas. Whether they fit into an existing story, or fall under the category of “write it down, save it for later”, or even come out as semi-complete new plots, I’m constantly creating new things in my head. But when it comes down to actually taking those ideas and fashioning them into something, that’s when things can get murky.
For instance, I’ve been tossing around this notion recently: a brand new collection of shorter stories, set in the same world to one of my epic novels. These ideas tie together some of my existing lore, and expand upon other little details here and there. When a novel has the potential to be so expansive, it seems like there are just endless possibilities within that realm, and the people and magic can all tell their own version of events.
Of course, I’m currently free to explore these possibilities, and it’s now when I’m not sure where to go with them. I will sit down with a blank sheet of paper, and write out all the important information. Who are the main characters? And the minor characters? What is the central conflict? What kind of dynamic will there be? And of course, what’s keeping the characters from reaching their goals?
These are just a small handful of the questions which I will eventually need to answer about these stories. The fact that I am planning on making this a series of shorter novels (no 100,000+ words for these!) means I need to decide if there is an over-arcing plot, or if they are simply snippets from the lives of individual characters with a matching theme. If there is an over-arcing plot, what are the mini-conflicts in each book? How do they relate to the ultimate outcome?
Before all of that, I will have conversations with the characters. Get to know them. Make them interact with each other, see who they are and what really drives them. Where their biases lay, where their weaknesses hide, what they fear, and what they believe in passionately. I can’t write without knowing my people. They are the whole reason a story exists. If I don’t know them, I can’t write what they will do, and how that will shape the eventual ending. If I want to reach “Point H”, I need to first know if the characters can get there organically, or if it will just turn out forced and awful with the personalities I’m working with.
4 thoughts on “In the beginning, there was an idea”
Your idea sounds wonderful, Ashlee. And you are going about it so methodically it can’t help but succeed. Wish I was so organized!
Thank you, Cynthia! I don’t know if I’m really all that organised, so much as hyper-aware of how complicated my stories tend to get. That means I will need to keep this lot under tighter control than usual! Besides, planning is half the fun!
The hardest part of world-building–& this is first-hand experience speaking–is breaking away from the maps & dictionaries & internal-structure to actually write the STORIES. I have so much respect for authors like Tolkien & Roddenberry & Snicket & Rowling; they were able to invest so much effort into constructing a coherent, consistent universe for their characters and STILL craft amazing stories with distinctive signature prose.
That’s also why I have so little respect for the Meyers of the world; even the sillier conceits of the Twilight series would be acceptable if she would just stick to them! But she changes the rules every time she writes herself into a corner because she didn’t put any thought into the rules to begin with.
Such is one of the reasons why I do progress so slowly with my serial works; I want to not have to retcon or handwave things that I didn’t think through before publishing.
Establishing the rules of your world has to be one of the most complicated, infuriating, and downright integral points to writing. As you say, if you come to a point where the rules get in the way, you can’t just ignore them or change them to suit, so it has to be created so carefully to begin with. World-building has to happen in sync with plot-building, I’ve decided. 😉
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