Coming Up With a Novel or Story Idea
How many times have you heard somebody say the following: “You know, some day, I’m going to write a novel”? I’ve heard it more than once, but oftentimes it never happens. It is far, far easier to read a novel than to write one, and for whatever reason, people who say they’re going to pursue this dream may let it fizzle out.
Let’s say that you’re one of those individuals who is truly committed to trying your hand at writing and that it’s something that excites you, but what if you have one serious problem: You have no ideas?
Yeah, I’d say that’s an issue, but the good news is that you can brainstorm. We’ll dig a little deeper into that, though, because writing a novel often involves a lot of different details that must be considered.
First, you must have some spark in the form of a first idea or character around whom you would like to base the book. An author’s inspiration can come from any number of things without limitation: maybe a unique situation you’ve experienced, a person you’ve met, a story you were told or heard about, so on and so forth. Also consider your interests and areas of expertise when trying to create an idea; there is no right or wrong way to do it.
It would also be a waste of time for me to say “here are some writing ideas” and list a bunch of things like “young man and his dog get into crazy adventure road-tripping across America; hilarity ensues.” I could write down thoughts all day and none of them might interest you, but chances are, you can implement some brainstorming techniques such as these and let the idea you like come from within yourself. That’s way more helpful and creative than me (or anyone else) trying to force-feed you topics about which to write.
Once you have that initial idea, it needs to be developed if you’re to have any luck writing a successful novel. There are probably very few literary works of magnitude that have just the protagonist and nobody else involved. You’re going to have to create additional characters, so do brief paragraph sketches of them as you might if you were writing a screenplay. Describe things such as their name, physical attributes, and personality traits, and consider ways in which they will play a role in the plot and how they interact with, complement or serve as a foil to the protagonist. Try to give all characters a different wrinkle if that’s what works; making them all too alike would probably be boring.
Some people write with just a general idea in their minds of their plot and their characters (just “letting the ideas flow”), but others prefer to outline the plot before picking up a pen. In doing this, you may be able to get a clearer idea of where you want this story to go and how you want it to develop. I find that this helps not simply to formulate details that will help strengthen the plot, but also potential sub-plots that add more depth. A good article on creating a plot outline can be found here.
At times, it’s not easy to come up with an idea, and when you’re talking about something as involved as a novel (or even something shorter like a novella), it takes effort to develop what you want it to be and whom you want to be in it. A final tip is to avoid becoming frustrated. My first novel, finally to be released in June, was a project I’d been working on for a few years, putting it down for months at a time and coming back to it fresh. Just keep thinking (but not too hard or you’ll burn out) and you’ll be able to craft the next great story idea before long.
Joe is a writer; that should be perfectly evident to you by now. If, for some reason, it is not evident to you, you should probably contact Joe and tell him that he's not trying hard enough. Joe is an author and freelance writer from New York. He has a B.A. from Boston College and has blogged for a number of years. Joe released his debut novel in 2012, and also has penned a number of short stories.