Combining All Your Great Ideas to Make One Great Story

Nov 29, 2010

I'm letting Devs sit for a while so I can revise again with better perspective. Meanwhile, I've started on a new book. I've had two ideas vying for my attention lately, so I started developing both to see which one would get more interesting to me at the moment.

Whenever I'm trying to flesh out a basic idea, I do what I call an "idea dump" document. I write down the idea, and any others that come to me while brainstorming. I also write down all the questions I have-- like "why," and "how," and "so what" and try to answer them. As I did this for one of my ideas, I had a sudden stroke of genius.

What if I combined this idea with the other idea? And then combined it with an older idea from an unused story?

My wheels began to turn, and the ideas clicked into place. I went from one interesting but possibly unoriginal idea to a story combining three of the greatest ideas I've had yet. And it's going to make one awesome story.

If you've ever listened to Writing Excuses, this is actually a method they advocate for creating an original story-- combining two or more ideas that seem different into one story. If you used one of those ideas, you might have a neat story. But if you use them both in the same story, it goes from pretty good to pretty amazing.

But you might be crying, "Wait! I don't want to use all my ideas in one story! I won't have ideas left for another one!" Lest you forget, you are a writer. A storymaker. Someone who can take a line from a movie or a picture on a wall and ask a "what if." You will have more ideas.

So, my friends, take a look at the stories and ideas floating around in your head. Can you combine any of them? Have you combined ideas before, making your story more complex and unique?


Nov 23, 2010

I finished draft 3 of Devolutionaries! I'm excited, even though I still have to overhaul one character completely and de-nebulate my antagonist (because it/he is in a state of great nebulosity at the moment. Get it? Sigh...yes, I did fry my brain getting through this draft so fast.).

Still, I'm calling it a completed draft. As a reward, I finally bought Paranormalcy today.

And there's a gigantic blizzard predicted for tonight.

And I have hot chocolate, curry, candles, and fuzzy socks.

It's gonna be a celebration of blizzard-ic proportions!

So, my friends, what do you do to reward yourself for finishing any part of your WIP?

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

In the Home Stretch

Nov 19, 2010

Good news: I am within ten chapters of having my third draft of Devolutionaries finished. Woot!

Bad news: I only have a little over a week to finish those ten chapters in time for the full novel critique my crit group is doing. And hopefully still have time to enjoy Thanksgiving.

Ergo: I will be sparse on the blog for the next week as I gleefully hack out the bad and add the better to Devs.

So, my friends, how are your wips going? Are you NaNoers on track? What's your planned progress over the holiday week?

5 Tips for Writing Memorable Romantic Scenes

Nov 16, 2010

I have a confession to make: I do not like most chick flics.

It's not that I'm unromantic-- it's actually the opposite. I feel like so many romantic movies are so full of tropes and stock characters that they kill the romance. This actually makes me extremely wary writing my own romantic scenes. I'm always terrified I'm going to fall into the sappy trap, and squash the real romance.

One of my favorite romantic scenes in any book or movie is in the movie The Village. You've got your painfully shy Lucius and your outspoken Ivy, who are in love but haven't admitted it to each other yet. There's just been a dangerous and frightening moment in the village, and Ivy wakes up to find Lucius on her porch. They sit and talk, but it's not particularly poetic-- they don't even touch. Then, Ivy, being her outspoken self, asks Lucius about their future wedding, which shocks him into finally saying what he's never been able to-- that he loves her.

Go watch the scene. I'm not kidding, you'll swoon over it. And why? Let's take a look at some things this scene did right.

The setting is unique
It's not a bedroom. It's not raining. It's not on a bridge. It's freezing cold, it's night, and it's on an uncomfortable front porch. Okay, so maybe it's a little cliche. But the fact that Lucius is sitting there, despite the potential danger from the "creatures," to protect Ivy-- well, that's romantic. And it's not the type of scene you'd expect to be romantic, but it is for just that reason.

The characters do not act outside their character
In fact, they act decidedly within their character. The unique blend and contrast of Lucius and Ivy's characters and how they interact makes this scene memorable. Lucius doesn't suddenly break out into poetic confessions of love. Which brings us to point three.

The characters don't break into poetic confessions of love
Okay, well, Lucius does actually make a confession of love. And I suppose you could even call it poetic. BUT. Let's look at what he didn't say. "I have loved you since before I could remember." "I can't take one more minute without telling you how much I love you." In fact, he didn't even use the words "I love you." In fact, the very thing that makes his words romantic is the fact that they are his. Even their delivery-- his frustration and agitation behind his love-- makes them better. Which brings us to the next point.

There are more emotions at work than just romance
Lucius and Ivy aren't wrapped in a rapturous romantic moment. There are a myriad of other emotions here. There's the fear of the attack that happened earlier that night, and Lucius's frustration and even irritation. There's Ivy's surprise when Lucius begins talking. And all of these emotions are inspired in the audience-- that's the key. In fact, the audience even feels an additional emotion-- amusement. Maybe it's just me, but I found Ivy's "will you dance with me on our wedding night" very funny. All of these additional emotions add realism, and even enhance the romance.

There is more focus on the relationship, and less on physical love
Now, don't get me wrong with this one. I'm not saying your characters shouldn't kiss or hold hands or even touch. They should do those things! But not every romantic scene needs to focus on them. Romantic tension is built in the scene from The Village precisely because the characters aren't touching-- but they want to. The scene is about the characters focusing on their relationship, which includes physical love but isn't limited to it.

So, my friends, now I want to know. What are some of your favorite romantic scenes in books or movies? What are some things you do to make your romantic scenes unique and memorable?

How to Strengthen your Writing by Not Writing

Nov 12, 2010

The last week has been very "meh" around my neck of the woods. A cold plus a bad back made sure that all writing went out the window. However, I still managed to make some good progress on my third draft of Devs.

Wait, no writing but still progress? How does that work? Well, I spent the week redefining all the background "things."

Before I ever start writing a draft, I do basic character sketches, world-building, and a (very) loose outline. By the time I'm done with the first draft, those are all woefully out of date. I already redefined my outline before I started the second draft of Devs, but my world-building and characters needed a ton of work. I did some more research (which I love) to build up and add details to my world, re-sketched my characters (oh, how I LOVE the clarity the 3-2-5 method brings!), and then, did something totally cool that I've never done before.

I outlined each of my plotlines individually.

Now, my overall outline is fairly complete at this point. Still, I knew my plot needed tightening--one subplot managed to fall entirely by the wayside in my second draft. So I pulled out each storyline and did a mini-outline for it, detailing what happened in which chapters. And it was amazing.

In the process of looking individually at all my plots and subplots, I found the weak spots. I picked out where one needed more conflict, where another completely fell off the map, and where two of them came together, sort of mirroring each other. All of you mega-outliners are probably laughing and saying, "how can you NOT do that?" But it sure was a revelation to me!

Even though I did little to no actual writing this week, my wip has gotten stronger. And I can't wait to actually write all those little changes in.

So, my friends, what do you do to strengthen your story when you're not actually writing? What specific behind-the-scenes tricks or tips can you share that you've found create a stronger story?

How to Make Your Writing Stand Out in a Crowd

Nov 8, 2010

So last week I blogged about stealing ideas and still being original with them. It got me thinking about the idea of being original. Don't we all dread being just like somebody else? We want to write something new and unique, something that stands out. But how, exactly, do we do that?

One of my crit group buddies said something to me last week that made something click in my brain. I'm submitting chapters of my rewrite of Devs, and as we left, my buddy said something along these lines: "Your first draft felt so similar to a lot of things out there, but all the details in this draft are making it stand out."

And there it is! That's what makes your book original, even when you follow the three-act structure or use one of the seven basic plots. The details. That's what makes your book yours, what makes it stand out from everything in the slush. Details like these:

Character details. We hear it all the time: make your characters real/flawed/unique. Behind all of that, I think what we really want is to make our characters memorable. We want a character that sticks out in someone's mind. It's all in the details! Why do we remember Katniss from The Hunger Games? She poaches food from the woods to survive. She kicks butt with a bow and arrow. Her dad was killed in a mine explosion. It's those kinds of details that make your character stand out in a readers mind. For more on developing this kind of character, check out this post.

Setting details. Your setting/world should NOT be ignored! It's one of the biggest ways to differentiate your book. The thing is, you can have a totally fascinating world, but nobody's going to care unless you bring out fascinating details. Think of the book Uglies, and all the details brought out about the world. Everyone has interface rings that are basically tracking devices. The pretties have crazy things like "safety fireworks" to play with. Tally eats bucketloads of reconstituted food like Spagbol. Bring out those details in your setting! What small things will make it stick in the reader's mind? For more on setting, check out this post.

Plot details. This can be a tough one. The story is the most critical element-- it's what we do, right? We're storytellers. So how do you keep your plot original, something that readers won't expect? Again, it's in the details. Look at the small (and big) turning points in your story. Usually, it hinges on the character taking some kind of action. But what action? If your character does the first thing you think of, I can just about guarantee it's unoriginal. So think of two or three or six different decisions your character could make. Which one will turn the reader's expectations on their head? The tiny moments of the plot-- the details-- can be great places to make your story stand out.

So, friends, go forth and be original! And please share-- what do you do to make your writing stand out? How do you create uniqueness in your writing?

The God of Ideas-- Where does yours live?

Nov 3, 2010

I'm fairly convinced that the God of Ideas lives in my bathroom.

I've had an idea for a new book rolling around inside my head for a few weeks. It came to me while I gave Gooser a bath. It's a good one, but still vague, and I've had a hard time turning it from an idea into an actual story.

But as I was doing my hair the other day, it came to me. My brain whirled and clicked as bits of the story began to gather. It still has a long way to go, but it's a lot better than the almost nothing I had before.

That's one reason I don't (always) grumble about doing mindless daily chores. While my hands are occupied with dishes or a mop or a comb, my brain is free to run wild. And for me, for some reason, the bathroom is the best place for my brain to do that. I guess it really is like my husband says: things make more sense in the shower.

So, my friends, where do you get your best ideas? What activity, time of day, or place brings out the God of Ideas in your life?

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