Coming up with a story concept that has the stamina to make it all the way to the end whilst fumbling and bumbling entertainingly along to keep your readers interested can feel like an impossible task.
And then there are feelings like the idea has been done before (times ten), or that it can’t possibly compete with what’s already been done, so why bother?
The problem with determining the one story concept above them all to pursue for the next few months is that you won’t really know what it’s made of until you dive in and start swimming.
Use the brainstorming tactics below to ensure that whichever story concept you dedicate your time to is fully capable of fulfilling its mission of becoming a finalized novel.
12 BRAINSTORMING TACTICS FOR CREATING STORYLINES THAT ROCK HARDER THAN THE ROCKIES
1. THERE ARE NO BAD IDEAS
The golden rule of any brainstorming session should always, always, ALWAYS, be that there are no bad ideas. Never censor yourself, never shoot down an idea. You never know when a “stupid” idea will spawn the root of something much grander, so write everything down and treat everything that comes out of that beautiful brain of yours with respect and love.
2. EXAGGERATE ALL CONCEPTS
If you plan to write a fiction novel, you’ll experience the best results if you exaggerate every inch of the concept. Don’t let your protagonist defeat her foes with ease; make her work for it! If you find yourself running out of ways to pump up the action, then your storyline will almost certainly flounder halfway through the Writer’s Trench, leaving you forced to go back through Development Dunes to rework the plot. Avoid the extra work and make sure your chosen concept is able to be easily amplified when necessary.
3. HUMOR EVERY GENRE
You may not feel comfortable writing within every genre, but when it comes to brainstorming a new story concept, you’ll find your story is that much more entertaining when you include writing snippets from every genre. Can you incorporate a love triangle into your concept? Maybe a character with some horror in their arc? How about suspense? Can you add in a little drama? Through humoring every genre, you’ll quickly see where and how your story can become more intense.
4. CREATE A KEYWORD CHART
If you’re struggling to turn words into sentences when it comes to creating story concepts, then try jotting down some keywords to get the ball rolling. The first ones that come to mind, ones based off of your favorite things, literally any keywords you can get your hands on. Have you downloaded the Story Seeker Venn Diagram yet? If not, go do that now! Use a keyword chart to recognize which terms come together to create interesting storylines (like a pirating new-world order, for example).
5. GIVE IT A TEST RUN
Not sure if your new concept has enough power under the hood? Put it to the test by sitting down for a test run. Give yourself one page, one-thousand words, or one-hour to produce as much or as little of whatever you like. Conduct a character interview or write out a scene…how did it go? Did you have fun? If you find it difficult to bust out one full page of content for your idea, then it’s probably not that stellar to begin with (said with love).
6. PHONE A FRIEND
There’s nothing better than hearing a close friend get really psyched for one of your story concepts. Even better? When that same friend yells, “YOU HAVE TO WRITE THAT BOOK!!!!” Hit up your favorite somebody and tell them the concept you came up with. Are they entertained? Do they want to hear more? If you’ve got your friend hooked on your concept, you’ve got a future reader waiting in the wings for your next finished novel!
7. YOUR LIFE AMPLIFIED
Imagine every facet of your life amplified by superhero standards. You’re a Diana Prince or Clark Kent of the office and every minor moment in your life is magnified by the fact that hidden beneath is this secret component of yourself that no one else knows…Now. Who is your foe? What is your life’s major trial or turbulence? What is the heroic version of your life story? Examine not only your life, but the life of every person around you as if they too had a secret motive behind their existence and see what kind of strange ideas you cook up! When applied to everyday life, you’ll find that story concepts are endlessly creative. You’re welcome 😉
8. UNTOLD BACKSTORIES
Have you ever wondered whether or not the Wicked Witch of the West was ever actually wicked or if she was just perceived that way by her peers? Well Gregory Maguire wondered that and then wrote about it. Times three and then some as he went onto write the backstories of all sorts of other fairytales. Explore the stories in your life that leave you wanting more and see if you can fill in some entertaining gaps.
9. THE NEVER-ENDING BRAINSTORM
For a lot of novelists, brainstorming never really ends. We’re always jotting down concepts and scribbling on napkins and hoarding nuggets of literary gold for the day we finally feel ready to bring the concept to life. Don’t let your brainstorm end just because you’ve stepped away from the computer for the day. Keep a small, handheld journal nearby for quick notes, or a note open on your smartphone, or even post-its! Whatever you gotta do to keep your ideas stored for a later date. Remember: even if your ideas never see the light of day, they build off of one another and thereby are never wasted.
10. READ A BOOK OR WATCH A MOVIE
I find that when I just can’t muster anything interesting to write about, a good book or movie tend to get my mental mojo flowing. Pay attention to storylines, subplots, diction, and character development that go into creating your favorite forms of entertainment. Often our greatest sources of inspiration stem from someone else’s imagination.
11. GET ACTIVE
Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m doing something random and active. Sometimes magic strikes while I’m cleaning the house, sometimes it’s during yoga. Sometimes I feel inspired while I paint, other times I feel lit up at the grocery store. Seriously, it’s random. Do activities that give your brain a break and watch how inspired your brain will become. It’s like, it doesn’t want a break, but then it does…but then it doesn’t…?
12. THINK OF WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO READ
The oldest piece of advice out there and the one that helped me the most with developing ideas for this, my second year of exploring Noveldom, is to create what you want to read. So have at it! Are you into action/adventure? Do you need more romance in your life? Think of the most recent, big names in publishing. J.K. Rowling, E.L. James, Steven King. They all created something fresh based on what they wanted to read. If you want to make yourself proud with your story idea, it’s gotta be something you’d want to read in the first place.
What is your novel idea?
Have you created a concept that you’re absolutely jazzed to explore? I’d love to hear about it! Personally? I’ve got a few gems up my sleeve that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into 😀