Saturday, September 25, 2010
I recommend you have some paper with you or an opened word document. This will help you write down your ideas.
First pick a genre. I recommend one that you don't usually write. Why? That will be explained later. But just pick a genre--one that you don't usually write in but still like.
I picked the Heist genre.
Okay, write your genre down. Now, underneath it write down all the words that come to your mind when you think of this genre no matter how cliche they are. I'll do this for heist.
Banks. Team. Thief. Rich Boss. Betrayal. Money. Diamonds. Secret info. Tall Buildings. Crime Lords. Lasers. Sound detectors. Museums. Cops. Disguises. Drills. Careful Plans. Mansion. Theft. Stuck up rich guy. Big city.
Okay, have you brain stormed all of your stuff? Yes? Good.
Now, lets pick a setting for our story. Look at the words you have brain stormed and see if any of them are settings. At least a few should be. If not, do more brainstorming. Then pick your favorite one to be your setting. For my heist story I'll pick a Tall Building cause it looks cool.
Have you picked your setting? You have? Awesome.
Now lets pick our protagonist. Go back up to your brainstorm list and pick out the words that are types of people. If you don't have any do some more brainstorming. For my story I'll pick a Thief, because thieves are cool in my opinion.
Have you picked your protagonist? You have, really? Good job.
Now lets look at what we have so far.
Setting: Tall Building
Now we need a problem. So, let's look up at our brainstorming list and pick out something that can be a problem. I'll pick a theft. So, my characters are trying to pull off a theft in a tall building.
Have you picked a problem? Awesome.
So our characters have a problem often caused by an antagonist. In my case, the antagonist is the person making my character do the theft. He's making him do it. But why? Brainstorm all of the reasons for your problem to occur. What does the antagonist want?
I'll do this for why someone would want a theft.
Money. Secret info. To frame someone. To ruin someones reputation. For a rare possession. For revenge.
Now pick one of the reasons you have written down. I'll pick Secret info. Because it sounds cool and makes me wonder what the info is.
Have you picked your reason? Good.
Now we have the three main things we need for a story. Mine are.
Setting: Tall Building
Problem: To steal secret info.
Now that we have these basics let's focus on character.
Our character needs to be interesting, so let's give him an interesting past. Let's give him a profession that he quit. So, list all of the professions that you think are cool. Something that you would not mind being, something that you wish you were, or wished as a little kid. I'll do this too.
Race car driver. Astronaut. Movie Star. Writer. Marine. Spy. Rock Star.
Now choose one of these professions for your character's past. I'll choose movie star. So before my character was a thief he was a movie star. Now he often acts to fool security guards and cops. Also he was very famous, so now he can't show his face in public ever because he is too recognizable.
Have you picked your profession? Awesome.
Our character needs to have a quality that makes us cheer for him. So let's list all of the qualities that we admire in people. Here are mine:
Bravery. The ability to go on even when others say you'll fail. Optimism. Selflessness. The ability to inspire others. Always doing the right thing.
Okay, so now let's pick one of these qualities for our character. I'll pick the ability to go on even though failure is certain. That sounds cool to me.
So have you picked your quality that is worth cheering for? Yes. Good.
Okay now we have pretty cool characters. Mine is:
A thief, who is an ex-movie star, who does not give up against impossible odds.
Now that we have a cool character. Let's try to make our problem cooler. Remember the problem you picked. I picked stealing secret info. Now let's say that that is what your character thinks the problem is. However in reality the problem is something else. Go back to your first brainstorm list and pick another problem. I'll pick betrayal because it is cool. Lets say my character was trying to steal the secret info for their client, but in reality his client betrays him, and the whole theft is a set up to make sure the thief gets caught or worse. So first my character thought he was just trying to steal something. Now, he needs to find his way out of a building that has been booby trapped in every way to make sure that he is caught.
So, have you picked your second problem and connected the two? Yes? Awesome.
Now, we have a good character and a good problem. Let's go back to the setting and try and make it better. This is called changing the arena.
Write down the things that come to your mind when you think of your setting. I'm thinking tall building--this is what comes to my mind.
Rich Crime Boss. Rich Company Owner. Secret operations. Mafia. Offices. Super computers. Helicopters.
Now, let's pick one of these things. I'll pick Super Computer...cause its cool. So let's say my building has a super computer that controls all of the security systems. Now this is a cool setting.
But is it cool enough? No. That's why we're going to do a genre twist.
Go ahead and pick another genre--not the one you started with. This genre could be something you like and often write. Since I like to write fantasy, I'll pick fantasy.
Now let's write down all of the words that come to mind when we think of our new genre. Here are mine when I think of fantasy.
Towers. Magic Swords. Elves. Dwarfs. Dragons. Evil Lords. Princesses. Wizards. Magic. Scrolls. Magic hats. Spirits. Mages. Curse. Prophecy.
You done? Awesome.
Now lets look at our original setting, character, and problem, and see if we can spice them up. Pick words from your new brainstorm and match them with the three elements. So for me:
Instead of a tall building, let's say our thief is robbing a tower. Instead of a super computer, let's say the tower has a magical spirit that runs all of the security.
Let's say that even though our character is a thief and ex-actor who never gives up, he is also a mage that specializes in magic that helps him steal things. Now he is very interesting.
Instead of simply stealing some secret info, let's say they're stealing a magic scroll with a very secret powerful spell on it. Of course the actual problem is a betrayal. Let's say the antagonist is a princess who used to love the thief, but then he broke her heart. Now the princess wants revenge so she has set up this dangerous heist.
Have you matched up your previous stuff with the new words? You have? Amazing.
See how interesting the story sounds now? I mean it is amazing and probably the most creative story you have ever heard of.
Now we have an awesome story, with an awesome protagonist, villain, setting, and problem.
However, this only gives us one plot revolving around "The Problem," which is the heist/betrayal. We need more plots. So how do we get these other plots? Well pick a few other plots you want. I'll pick two more. I'll pick a romance plot and an idea plot.
Have you picked the ones you want? Yes? Good.
Now let's take one of these plots. Lets start with something that is also a genre. Like a romance plot, or a mystery plot, or a horror plot, or a thriller...
So, I'll start with my romance. Brainstorm all of the words that come to your mind while thinking of this genre.
Marriage. Heartbreak. Kisses. Heart shaped necklaces. Memories. Dates. Cheating. Differences. Anxiety. Love triangle. Parent Issues.
Okay, I've had enough. Now, if you feel like having another setting in your book and another main character, pick both from your new list. I don't want to though, so I'll just pick a new problem. I'll pick cheating.
Now, have you picked all of the elements you want? Yes? Good.
Now, let's do all of the things we did before. Make your new character interesting: give them a past and a good or bad quality. Then make your setting interesting. Think of any words that come to mind when you consider it, and then link them. Then to make your problem more interesting, pick another one. I'll pick parent issues.
So here is my new plot. The thief cheated on the princess, then he regrets it and wants to fix the relationship. Of course he didn't really cheat. The princesses father didn't like the thief, so he made him pretend to cheat on the princess so that she would leave the thief and blame him and not her father. So, now I have a new awesome plot. The princess has set up this whole evil trap for the thief only to find out that he didn't really cheat on her.
So, have you created your new plot? Yes. Awesome.
Now, if you haven't done it yet, throw your new plot through the genre twist. Twisting your new plot in the genre that you twisted your first plot into. So for me: fantasy. So, let's say the princesses father is also an evil wizard. And let's say he actually does like the prince. He had just seen a prophecy that would lead to his daughters death if she stayed with the thief. So, he makes them break up in order to avoid this future but makes it look like he just does not like the thief.
Okay...this makes things interesting...gives me more plot twists. How about you? You too. Awesome.
Now do this exercise for any other plot you want to add that matches a genre.
You've done so? Awesome. Now let's do idea plots, which in my opinion are a little harder.
Pick one of the plots you did earlier and think of what idea would help your character succeed in fixing the problem of that plot.
I've chosen my romance plot. Now what idea would let my character succeed in getting the princess that is prophesied to die if she is with him? Simple: the idea that people can make their own destiny. Awesome. Now I have an idea plot. And it already relates.
If yours does not relate too well, let's brain storm words that come to your mind when you think of your idea. So my idea is destiny.
Prophecy. The Chosen one. Death. Invincibility. God.
So awesome, now we can once again pick a new setting and new character if we want to. I'll pick the chosen one as a new character--a character who's entire life has gone according to prophecy. This is why our thief believes in prophecy, because he knows the chosen one. They work together.
Have you found something that relates? Yes. Good.
Let's make the new character interesting. I'll make his old job a writer. But then prophecy made him become a warrior even though he did not want to be one.
His positive trait will be optimism. YAY.
So now let's try to genre twist this plot and character too.
Let's give the chosen one a curse...hm...lets make him allergic to magic. So he can't use magic due to his condition...but he has the ability to easily detect it since it gives him a reaction. That's why he is an awesome partner to the thief.
Also, let's twist the prophecy. Let's say that all prophecies are made by super powerful wizards. More powerful then the girls father. So here's another twist. Let's say some of them are corrupt and simply make prophecies that help them. Everyone believes these false prophecies, so they end up coming true. Awesome.
Alright, so now we have multiple plots and things that make our story awesome. Lets see what we have. I have.
Destiny Plot: Prophecy could be avoided, but it is dangerous to. Prophecy about the princesses death.
Romance Plot: Cheating/Parent Issues
Heist/Betrayal Plot: Princess asks thief to steal scroll, but really it is a trap.
Characters: Thief, Princess, Wizard Father, Chosen one.
Setting: A tower with spirit powered security.
So we have an entire story in the works. A story that rocks.
Now that we have all of our plots we can create the seven points for each of them.
Hook: No heist.
Plot Point 1: Thief hears of heist, but it is too dangerous.
Pinch 1: If he does the heist, he can have his acting career returned to him. He can be famous, not infamous.
Midpoint: He takes on the heist.
Pinch 2: He can no longer get what he wants. Even if he gets the scroll, he was betrayed and his life will still suck.
Plot point 2: He realizes that he can use the magic scroll to fix his life himself. He continues to steal it.
Resolution: He steals the scroll and escapes alive.
Hook: Thief is single
Plot Point 1: He has the chance to take princess back but says no. He fears the prophecy.
Pinch 1: The princess has set a trap for him in the tower. The only chance of escape is to agree to love her again.
Midpoint: The thief realizes that maybe him and the princess could be together.
Pinch 2: The thief gets together with the girl...but then she is about to die...the prophecy is coming true.
Plot point 2: The thief realizes he could still save the princess from death.
Resolution: The thief saves the princess and ends up with her.
Hook: The thief believes in prophecy.
Plot Point 1: The thief learns that prophecy can be avoided. Begins to doubt it but still fears going against it.
Pinch 1: There is another prophecy that the thief will fail to get his life back. That he will die. He needs to go against it.
Midpoint: The thief decides to go against prophecy in all cases.
Pinch 2: The thief's mission looks like a failure, and the princess is about to die like according to prophecy.
Plot point 2: The thief realizes that he could still prevent at least one of the prophecies from coming true.
Resolution: He saves the princess and excepts that people can make their own destiny.
Alright, those are my seven points. You can do yours later if you don't have the time.
Next, you want to line them up and see which points you want to go in which chapters.
Then we can organize the plots into chapters and make them connect where we want to.
Okay awesome. Now we can create try and fail cycles for each of the chapters. That could be done later...and only if your interested in the story. I've outlined all of the plots because I am interested in mine and might write it one day. I think it has potential as I am sure the story you have created has as well.
So, that concludes this awesome outlining technique. I really hope you guys participated in the exercise, because I can guarantee you that you will have an awesome story by the end.
Please share with me the stories you guys came up with in the comments. I'm really interested to hear about what your creativity spawned.
More writing tips will come soon. For now, enjoy brainstorming!