Posts Tagged With: concepts

How to Deal with Idea Fragments

Imagine JK Rowling never thought of Harry Potter (I know, scary thought, but bear with me), and that you just had the idea for a boy wizard. You recognize that the story could be good. Very good, in fact. The question is, what else do you include? What does your boy wizard do? What is his world like? What makes him special enough to follow around? Obviously in the coming months you’ll come up with Hogwarts and Voldemort and all the other relevant characters and details, but until then Harry’s not really an idea but an idea fragment.

Is there a difference? Yes there is, at least how I write. To me, an idea has a bit more meat on it, like a summary or a prompt. You got this, and you can move forward coming up with all the details based on this little information. Using the Harry Potter example:

Harry is a boy who finds out he’s a wizard, and that when he was a baby, he defeated the greatest Dark wizard of all time. He goes to Hogwarts School to learn magic, and there his destiny begins to emerge.

Now in idea fragment form:

Harry is a boy wizard. That’s all I got so far.

See the difference? It’s just part of a summary. You can’t move forward without knowing a bit more, without deciding what direction you plan to go with Harry. That’s an idea fragment. And we all have them from time to time. Heck, I’m struggling with more than a couple right now. I know that with a bit of development they could be great ideas for stories, but until I add a few more details, I can’t write them down on any of my idea lists. And that makes them annoyances that you work desperately to make into full-fledged ideas. Which can be maddeningly difficult sometimes.

So in order to aid you with these fragments while you have them, here are some tips to develop them into full ideas:

  • First, write them down. Nothing is more infuriating than an idea you forget before you can find some way to make sure you don’t forget it (which is why I keep several lists for ideas and thoughts on my stories). While I’ve found losing idea fragments just to be slightly annoying–as far as I’m concerned, it’s just going back into the sea of the subconscious, to bubble up gain someday and maybe as an idea–it’s still good to write them down so they don’t slip your mind. Writing information down has actually been shown to help commit it to memory, so you’re making sure you don’t forget these possible great ideas-to-be.
  • Don’t stress on trying to turn them into ideas. You can spend your time turning over the fragments in your head, trying to do so until you’re frustrated will not help you come up with an idea. If anything, it’ll just keep you up at night and ruin your mood in the morning. So if you start getting frustrated with a fragment, here’s what you should do:
  • Take a break and distract yourself. Watch some Netflix. Read a book, especially if it’s in a genre or on a subject you’re not entirely familiar with. Go hang out with friends and talk about anything but the fragments. Dive into work, or another writing project, or your family, or whatever. When you come back to it, you’ll be a little refreshed and maybe also armed with new information or experiences to add to your potential idea. And psychology also shows that distracting yourself while trying to solve a problem actually leads to ways to solving it (there’s an episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Einstein Approximation”, that illustrates this very well). So distract yourself. You never know what you might find.
  • Use a generator site. Idea generator, random word generator, story prompt generator, story plot generator, whatever generator. Do a Google search, you’ll find plenty of them. Each varies in what sort or how many parameters they require, and what sort of prompts they give as a result, but if you’re really stuck with some fragments, one of these sites might really be able to help. The downside is that some of the suggestions they give can be really silly sometimes (I tried a horror-themed one, and it gave me some odd plot summaries), while others ask for so many parameters you’re like, “If I knew all this, why would I need to be on this site?” Also, some people may feel that these sites are cheating or really lame last resorts, but it only matters if you think that.

While working on this article, an idea fragment I’d been struggling with for about two weeks finally became an idea. It helped that I was listening to a Stephen King audio book and that I read an article about a recent police operation leading to a huge arrest, helping me to think of something for the characters I had in my head whom I had no idea what to do with. So while these fragments can be a source of frustration, eventually they can become great ideas.

What tips do you have for figuring out idea fragments?

Categories: General Writing, Psychology of Writing & Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Creative

My second-oldest grandson made me a birthday card,  what do you think he drew ? The answer will surprise you. Done guessing?

Well, it was a dinosaur that swallowed a rainbow fish.  My grandson thought out of the box. Are you thinking out of box? Are you using your creative juices?

As a writer, I guarantee you probably do that. But sometimes our drinking well dries up. How do we replenish our creative side? Downtime helps at times.

I recently put my prequel novel on hold. It included some great scenes but the whole concept was not right. Readers must love your character and if I continued with the way it was going they would not root for him. Thus, I got input from critique groups and entered a contest and received feedback there. These insights will make this project better. But while I sort out on how to fix the problem, a different idea came to fruition.

And, this is co-authoring a book with great friend Ruth Ann Nordin. Our work in progress is titled, Bride by Arrangement, where two women meet on a train to travel to Nebraska in the late 1800s. When I have mentioned this story, people ooh and ah.

The romance will include two novellas – one written by Ruth and the other by me. My novella is called She Came by Train, where Opal leaves her beloved Virginia to become a governess of two children of a local banker who lost his wife. The plot thickens when a minister from Virginia conducts revival services in the area. She came by train but only her heart will determine if she leaves that way.

How do we develop concepts? There is no certain path. Mine is to write a scene and see where it leads. Here is an example:

“Her mind whirled. ‘Mice. You don’t bring those into the house do you?’ she asked in a weak voice.

He shook his head in the negative. ‘No, Papa wants them outside so the cats can have their meals. Miss Preston you looking kind of white.’

Her eyes closed. 

‘Miss Preston,’ his shrill voice penetrating her consciousness.

She teetered.”

However, everybody has their own method. There are people who are story plotters. One woman Ruth and I ran into at a conference had a huge sheet with a series of notes on it. She needed a king-size bed to display that paper. But if this helps you create, go for it.

Creators do come in many shapes and sizes and each builds on their own experiences in order to fashion their stories. For example, in my Lockets and Lanterns the secret the husband hides from his wife is something which comes from my background.

Thus, feed on your past and embellish them to make good reading. Remember those fish tales? They only get better as the fish got bigger.

Sometimes visiting historical homes or other places gives you ideas. These also make great resource tools to get a real feel for the time period. Even childhood memories assist you. In my prequel, I wrote a scene where a character falls in a lake. I can describe this since as a child we went camping and I waded in the river.

In addition, do not forget about past actions and conversations. Family and friends make wonderful fodder. In my story, “Sweaters of Love,” in Seasons of the Soul I used a conversation between myself and my oldest granddaughter who was 4 years old at the time and weaved it into this fiction tale.

“Mary told Jolleen about how the weather changed. ‘Grandma,’ Jolleen said. ‘God is a big guy. He will do whatever He wants.’”

So remind yourself you can take a break; look for new projects to refresh your writing; plot your story your way; generate ideas from experiences, conversations and actions; and fill that drinking well with writing. You cannot believe what you can produce when you put your mind to it.

How do you create your stories? I look forward to your comments and as always God bless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: General Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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