It's been a bit since I've posted, and I'm working on a few things to get a more regular schedule going.
What better way to kick off a new beginning than with a special guest post by fellow blogger and writer Janice Hardy?
Janice is stopping by today as part of her Blue Fire Blog Tour, to promote the release of Blue Fire, the second book in her trilogy, The Healing Wars.
Take it away, Janice!
Storming the Brain
My husband and I play “what if?” a lot. One of us will toss out a question (usually him), and we’ll run with it. It started out as silly things to entertain us on long car trips, but it’s evolved into an endless stream of story ideas for me.
You’d think this would be a fabulous resource for a writer, but we often end up with too many ideas. I can’t possibly write them all and not every idea – no matter how cool it sounds at the time – would make a good book.
So how do I pick out the good ones?
Yeah, I know, not very helpful. But the truth is, every idea has the potential to become a really great book. It’s more a matter of figuring out the story that goes behind that idea, and that can be the hard part. I’ve had many a premise that got me excited, only to discover later that I didn’t have a story, much less a plot, that would go with it. I think this is one of the reasons there are a lot of novels that stall after fifty or a hundred pages.
When I start brainstorming an idea, the first thing I look for is the core conflict, because without that, I can’t write the story. Something about the situation or premise has to be able to cause trouble, and hopefully to a lot of people. If it can’t, there won’t be anything for the protag to strive for. No matter how cool an idea sounds, if there’s no conflict, there’s no story yet. No idea is too crazy at this point, because it’s all about exploring the potential, and you never know where one idea might lead.
Once I have that core conflict, I start thinking about the people I can put into it. Who would be affected, who would benefit, who would be hurt? What kinds of people would be needed for this situation? Sometimes I already have an inkling of who might be part of this (character and plot often develop simultaneously), so I’ll look for connections that person might have to the other people in the story. Conflict often comes from those connections, and they can help you develop the plot later.
Then I dive into the characters. Lots of writers do characters first, but situations have always come to me first. Once I have a general idea of the world and the conflicts, I’m better prepared to see what people I can put into it and how their back stories and goals can grind those conflicts together. Sometimes the characters aren’t even named. They’re just concepts, like the best friend, or the bad guy, or the possible ally who might be a villain. Ideas of the types of people I might throw together.
Finally, I look at goals and stakes. Without knowing what my characters want and what they’re risking to get it, the story will be pretty boring. I might also look at my themes for this if any have started to develop. They often do, even this early, because I see recurring concepts between possible character types and the conflicts I’ve discovered. I explore who wants what and why. Who is the most likely to be involved on a personal level? Who’d be against it and why? Where can the huge failures occur? (Because that might just turn out to be what your protag is after) What situations would lend themselves well to the growth of a character? I’ve learned that situations with lots of gray areas work great for putting characters into situations where there is no real right or wrong, and the choice is tough as can be. The potential for inner and outer conflict is high, and there’s lots of plot to mine there.
Brainstorming is a great way to dig deeper into an idea to see if it really does have the legs to carry an entire novel. The more layers you uncover in the early stages, the higher the chance that they story can work as you hope. Any idea that falls flat after a few minutes is one that would probably have you banging your head against the keyboard by chapter three.
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.
Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.
Click here to order.
Thank you very much, Janice, for visiting here at Second Star to the Right! Developing an idea into a story can be very difficult, and I appreciate your look into the brainstorming process.
Please check out Janice's site and blog for more information about The Healing Wars and see some of the other great articles she's written for the Blue Fire Blog Tour.
Now I'm off for some brainstorming of my own!