When an Idea Becomes a Story

It doesn’t always happen. You think of a great idea for a story and start off with a bang, only to hit the wall somewhere along the way. That great idea never finds a plot to build on. It doesn’t know where it’s going or what will happen at the end. It doesn’t know how the characters got where they are now, or where they’re going, or how they’re going to get there. Sometimes you realize that it wasn’t really that great an idea and you cross it off the list. Other times, though, it gets its hooks in you and you keep coming back to it, hoping for a breakthrough.

Sometimes, but not always, the breakthrough comes in a rush and the whole story comes seemingly out of nowhere, laid out for you from beginning to end. All you have to do is fill in the details. I don’t know what number that is of the rewards of being a writer, but it must be pretty close to the top.


6 thoughts on “When an Idea Becomes a Story

  1. A lot of my ideas are born from an ending scene. I also get a lot from What-ifs, but the most fun, for me, is when I dream a story. Dream stories are often fully realized, and, as you say, just need some meat on those hefty skeletons.

    In any event, I agree with you whole-heartedly, that those moments of insight and inspiration are the fuel of the writer, the paypack for the hours of staring blankly at a sheet of white paper or a naked screen.

    Give me one uplifting idea, and my day, my week, perhaps even a month becomes a wondrous place.

    1. It makes all the frustration, BS, self-doubt, etc., worth it. Lights up the sky for a little while. Even if I did find that the perfect title has already been taken by several writers, including Greg Bear. But even that was worth it because I discovered that *his* Darwin’s Children is a sequel to Darwin’s Radio. Another book on the TBR pile. Sigh.

  2. I hate to say it, but a lot of my ideas (the ones that make it to stories) are inspired by songs. The resulting stories often have absolutely nothing to do with the original song, but it is the song that sparks the imagination – for me.

    1. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Ideas come from all kinds of place, and we probably all have our own particular things that inspire us. My inspiration usually comes from current events in the news. But The Darkest Prison was inspired by a photograph.

  3. “Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder” came from a dream and was one of those that popped out fully formed. The short story that’s on my blog right now, “A Little Laboratory Work,” developed after reading a couple of scientific articles. And “Termite Queen” came from watching a documentary about termites. It didn’t come fully formed – orginally the leading male (human) character was an older professor and there was no love interest. The Ki’shto’ba series, as I say on my other blog, grew out of my interest in adaptations of myth, like “Watership Down.” Having such great material to work with almost guarantees a fascinating story.

    1. I’m inclined to think that most of the really interesting stories are inspired by more than one source. A lot of the inspiration may be unconscious, though, which might be why readers so often point out influences that the writer wasn’t aware of.

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