Fleshing Out Your Ideas

Your ideas are your babies. They may not be perfect (except in your mind) and may not actually go anywhere in their lifespan, but they are yours. What you do with them is up to you. I am here to tell you how I get mine from dream to paper and beyond. For those of you that have been reading my posts, thank you. This is the next post in a series that I hope to show how I get my ideas from my head to paper, then to the computer screen. For those who haven’t read my previous blogs, I’d invite you to the first few posts, but if you want, you can tag along here. This post is about getting those ideas to be something useful and viable as they usually are wild and a bit chaotic.

There are two schools of thought here. Whether you are a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) or a planner (someone who meticulously plans their work with lengthy outlines) or somewhere in between, there are still two basic ways to go about whittling your idea to something viable. Some people go for the plot. They focus on what’s going to first, then stick a character in to fill the stage. The others focus on the character in a given situation. I like the plot focus personally, so that’s how I’m going to approach this post and my stories. That is not to say that I won’t briefly go over it, so you can recognize it for what it is.

Focusing on Character

Much of what is considered classic writing or literary fiction focuses on character. This is where the story typically revolves around the main character’s internal struggles. Jane Eyre, a novel by Charlotte Brontë, is such a book. It focuses on the life of a woman in the Victorian Age. Her struggles with her emotions and her station in life are what drives the story along. Stories like these are deeply personal and can lead to some satisfying endings.

That’s just a brief description, there is much more to it, I’m sure, but for the focus of this post, I’m moving on to focusing on the plot.

For most modern writers, this is their primary focus (mine included). That is not to say the other is not a viable option, it’s just not as popular these days (this is my opinion, and I could be wrong).

Focusing on Plot

So your brilliant idea is something big that is going to happen. You have no idea who’s going to drive the plot forward, you just know that the plot is important. Now, even in the plot focused idea, there is a split. Some are hybrids of the character focused yet plot driven ideals. Others are just pure plot. To be honest, sometimes that line can blur. Writers like Stephen King say that they start with a character in mind and put him or her in a situation and go from there.

That’s how I do it as well.

So now we have our idea. What are we going to do with it. After figuring out how you want to approach it, you’ll want to flesh out said idea.

Let’s start with our idea. Any idea is a good one. It’s just how you extend it and mold into something that can be sustained for 50,000 to 100,000 or more words.

In my idea, I have just a sliver of information to start with. That’s all you might need to get going. Guess what? It came from a dream, so I thought I would start it this way: I want a children’s novel (chapter book) where a group of children are at a summer camp. The situation would be that one of the children, who will most likely be the main character, is approached by what looks like a bear, but not quite. Something is a bit off (this was from a dream, mind you). It didn’t exactly look like a bear, but something between a bear and human who attempted to act, though poorly, like a bear. He followed the main character to where they live and even does things that are rather humanoid.

Okay, that was really the dream. Now, that is all I have to work with, but here is where my imagination can fill in the rest.

That bear-like creature is known as a bugbear (not exactly like the Dungeons & Dragons ™ bugbears, but close). In his world, he was accused of attempting to overthrow the King and his punishment was being banished from the world and being stuck in our world. Now, he needs help to clear his name and return home to save the kingdom from a group of trolls magically altered to look like bugbears.

Hmmm, I really like this idea. What else can we say about this? Well, we have the plot and one character in a plight, but he’s not the main character. We need main characters in order for this to work. Before we get to them, we can also say that this bugbear, we’ll call him Bixby the Bugbear, has the ability to see through the trolls’ illusions. How? Not sure yet, but we can figure that out later. We have a potential reason for this character to have a crisis. The other part is that he was trying to warn the King about the trolls, but he saw that the King’s court was filling up with trolls in disguise (and in some very high places and advisory positions, I might add).

Okay, well I certainly have something that I can work with and it really look like I can take that idea and stretch into at least 50,000 words. Now, I just have to get some main characters involved to help him out.

Let’s take a minute to explore some character types that are typically present in stories such as these. They may be called tropes or archetypes, but they are extremely important for a starting point. Remember, I said starting point. You do not, I repeat, DO NOT want to leave them as tropes in your finished work. Your idea, however brilliant it maybe, might not make it to a bookshelf anywhere. But that is for another post.

For now, I envision three specific children for this story. A boy who is a gifted storyteller with his mind always in the clouds and his face stuffed in a book. Next, we have a girl who is tomboyish, yet still maintains an air of femininity. Finally, we have a brutish boy who is seen as a bully, but is actually quite sensitive inside.

This is just what start with. By the end of the story, they might change altogether, but this should give us a start so that we can continue to make our story better.

In the next post, I would like to go over something that’s helped me out tremendously in fleshing out my ideas. It is a big topic called The Snowflake method. If you have any questions or concerns, want a specific topic covered, just leave a comment below or you can email me at tleemessick@yahoo.com (I know, hard to remember, right?) I’ll do my best to answer your questions (as long as they’re writing related). As always, Happy Writing!



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