Today is the last day to enter for the Paranormalcy Giveaway, which ends today!
This week’s QOTW comes from Nicole , who asks:
When I get ideas they do not come in complete packages. Such as, I think up a character complete with past and personality but no plot or world, or a plot but no character to match it. Do your ideas “complete”? If not, how does one piece the fragments together?
I’ve only had one character who came to me more or less complete; the rest came in a small piece which expanded as I worked on the story more. It’s definitely a magical feeling when something pops into your head fully-formed, but I don’t think all successful stories have to start that way. As for putting all the little bits together, I have one piece of advice: Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. Sleep on it. Think about it when you’re driving in the car. Feel free to imagine scenarios or cultural customs that don’t make it to the ‘final cut’. The biggest problem I have when trying to flesh out a full world is that I feel stressed that it won’t come together eventually, and this stress takes the fun out of the imagining process.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a story come to me in a complete package. Usually I get inspired by something really random. For example: the idea for the project I’m currently querying came from a class I took on the Holocaust. My professor briefly mentioned that the Nazis had tried to cure death with some of their experiments, and I don’t think I paid attention for the rest of the lecture. I thought that idea, just the concept of it, was enough to build a book around. I had one character pop into mind, but nothing more than a mental image and a few very basic character traits. Everything else evolved as I started writing. I didn’t even have a plot when I sat down that first day! I’ve never been a brainstormer, or someone who sits around and tries to plot out their story before writing. I write by the seat of my pants, and things just expand from there!
As for how all the pieces come together, that takes a little more effort. I usually write my first draft, then outline it after the fact. That’s when I see where the plot holes are and what elements are missing. As I go back and fill things in, that’s really when the pieces come together.
I’ve never had a whole story come to me before. Generally, I come up with the characters first–or even a single scene that I then expand upon. Sometimes, like with HYBRID, I have nothing but a “what if” question, and I must come up with everything else.
My current WIP is an amalgamation of my two prior, unfinished WIPs. Neither was really “clicking” with me on its own, so I took the characters from one, the major plot from the other, invented a whole new setting, and threw everything into the pot. We’ll see how it goes 😀
My ideas start with a concept or situation. Then I have to have a setting. My characters reveal themselves as I think about the concept and then brainstorm ideas of how, for example, a seventeen year old girl living in that particular place would react to that particular situation. Often my characters are based so strongly on people I know, I don’t have to think up their personalities. I just “cast” the role with someone I know, and in my head I watch how they behave as I throw obstacles at them. Once or twice I thought I was so lucky because an idea came to me whole, like an egg – a perfect package of everything the story needed. The few times that’s happened, I discovered within the first day or two that I really didn’t have anything interesting at all. Unfortunately, I’ve always needed to expend a lot more effort to make everything fit.
My ideas are almost never complete. TIME IS A FUNNY THING developed from me dabbling with the character of Ingrid, similar to how you create whole personalities, and other characters were created to contrast her. Eventually a plot line came out of it, but it took about a hundred pages…which means a LOT of cutting. That was a different situation though, because it was the first big thing I’ve ever written, and I needed the personality first so I’d be interested in writing her.
Other things though just start out as a sentence; something pops into my head, similar to what a prompt would sound like, and just through that sentence I would completely understand the feel of what I want to write. But actually writing it down is a lot harder. Things like that have to stew in my head for a good long while before I start writing because if I do it too early I’m risking killing the idea completely…which would suck. The know I’m ready to write it when I don’t feel unsure or nervous about it anymore.
Finally I’ll have a thought about a certain relationship I want to explore. Something like “Imagine a husband and wife but the wife is a murderer and the husband doesn’t know.” And I’d go on from there. Generally with stuff like that the plot comes later, after exploring their relationship.
The fragments that I’d have to put together come whenever they deign. I find though that exploring whatever complete ideas I have, even just by writing little one-shots about them, helps. Eventually I find a common thread of plot I can expand upon and connect everything that way.
I definitely never get complete ideas right away. Most of the time, a certain aspect of the story will jump out at me–I write mostly fairy tale retellings, so my ideas usually spring from unanswered questions and holes in the legends. QUEEN OF GLASS came to be because I didn’t quite buy the drama behind the prince searching so desperately for Cinderella. I mean, the prince danced with this girl for like…3 hours and then turned his kingdom upside down looking for her–she MUST have done something other than dance to deserve that much effort…like stealing something from him. Or trying to assassinate him.
So, no–none of my ideas for books come to me in complete form. And I’m really glad they don’t.
I usually imagine scenes first, though sometimes I’ll have a character pop into my head. It’s never anything complete and it varies a lot on how long it takes me to put together a full picture. Often I’ll start with one scene I think is cool. Then I’ll start wondering about the characters involved, trying to figure out who they are, what their motivations are and what bought them to that scene. That will lead to more scenes, usually the major turning points in the story, and I have to work to flesh out everything between. Sometimes I’ll cannibalize other projects, ripping out characters and altering them to fit a new story line, or pulling working elements from something that overall doesn’t work.
Settings are another fun element in the mix. There are times when I know what the characters are doing in a scene and then I have to fill in the background. Are they inside? In the drawing room? Which drawing room? Do the background colors reflect or contrast with the mood. Is there anything distracting that will interfere with what they’re doing? And then sometimes I’ll have a setting and I’ll think it’s so shinny that I’ll put a scene there. In general, if I have an idea and I’m not sure what to do with it, I write it down and hope I’ll find a place for it later.
My ideas never come complete. It always starts with something; a character, a name, a world, or a situation. But never all of it together. I let the idea, whatever it is, sit in my mind for however long it takes for it to start to grow larger and larger. For some, it’s a few days; others, a few years. But I always brainstorm, and daydream, and think, “what if?”. That’s how an idea grows into a story for me.
Soon, bits of dialogue and scenes just start popping into my head. And once I have a clear voice in my head, I start writing. Even while I write, my story isn’t complete. I don’t outline, so often things come to me as a write. I suppose I just really let the words flow (haha, I couldn’t resist!). So just do what feels right; don’t worry if not all the pieces are there yet. Sometimes, they just suddenly appear on the page (and that’s always an amazing feeling).
Have any of your stories come fully formed, or do you assemble them in pieces?