A few days ago I came up with something, an idea, a method of planning stories and tales that really worked for me. It’s not a complex method and to be fair it probably isn’t even all that new to a lot of writers out there either but it is new to me, and I find it very effective.This method it more effective for flash fiction and short stories, as novels require a greater degree of planning then what I am about to describe,
“But what is this method” I hear you all cry out with a near tangible curiosity. “What is your ever so brilliant method. A method so unorthodox and revolutionary that it will completely change the way that we all think about planning stories?”
Well in short (and did I detect a note of sarcasm just then) you imagine yourself as a hard-nosed detective interrogating the crap out of your storyline. Start with a simple premise and then keep asking questions. A fairly standard technique I know, nothing new and impressive here. The secret for me is that you have to hammer out your questions as quickly as possible. Scarcely giving yourself time to think of the answers.
But before you can start the interrogation, you need a basic premise. A simple idea that you can hang the rest of your questions from. If you have been given a prompt for the flash fiction, start with this as the premise, then just keep asking questions.
So, let’s just say that are writing a short story, and your prompt is ‘a lounge singer’, I would first need a premise for the story.
For example, “A lounge singer gets involved in something weird.” It’s simple but as long as it is enough to get the juices flowing, the method will still work.
Once you have that premise the interrogation can begin, and remember I find it works better if you answer the questions quickly. (If you are not a fast typer, it might be an idea to record your answers vocally and then type them up later. )
What does this lounge singer look like?
– Woman, mid-thirties, attractive, blonde hair.
Is the source of weirdness magical, scientific, alien, spiritual?
-She gets sent back in time
-She never finds out
Does she get back?
Does she want to
Why does he help her?
-She looks like his dead wife
Is the fact she was a lounge singer important?
-The scientist’s wife sang
…and so on and so on. Keep asking questions until you feel you have covered as much of the plot and story as you need. Already you have the basic gist of a story there.
A lounge singer is sent back in time. As she struggles to find a way to get back to her own life, a scientist grieving for the loss of his wife agrees to help her find a way back. As the solution grows closer, so does their love. Soon she must make a very difficult choice; stay with the scientist she loves or leave him forever to return to her own time.
Ok, ok that probably is a rather cheesy storyline but romance is not really my forte however it does give you the idea. If you end up with something you really don’t like, you can always go again and try for a different direction. Anything minor you don’t like or want to change feel free to tweak, this is just to help you develop a story.
There are probably hundreds of thousands of ways to plan and develop your story out there and you always have to choose the method that works for you. I found this does work for me.
Let me know if you use it, I’d be glad to know if it works for you. What methods do you use to stir up ideas and plan your tales?
Oh and I’m not the only one who uses this method, see what happens when David Bowie tries it…
- Plotting your story (datanode.net)
- Formidable Characters (fictioners.net)
- I Suck at Short Stories (inkedoutloud.wordpress.com)