1. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    How are Your Stories Born?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Attas, Jul 10, 2020.

    I don't mean your first chapter, page, or sentence. I mean how do you come up with stories at all? When and where does an idea first visit you? Unless it's always different. I'm curious to see how the entire worlds of other authors burst into life like a new star.

    For me, it's always one of three things.

    1: I see something in the world (people, places, or things) that make me say "hmm... that would be an interesting aspect of a book. Before I know it, boom, characters, locations, and scenes are dancing around my head like mad.

    2: I hear a dramatic new song. This usually happens when I'm running. I like to listen to orchestral music in different genres (dramatic, classical, emotional) while running. This often spins itself into powerful scenes between characters I might not even know yet. Often a song will spark an imaginary situation in my head, and the rest of a story gets built around it on consequent runs until I have a whole book's worth.

    3: I dream it. This is the craziest, most random, and honestly frightening for me. These stories are usually thrillers or horror novels. Every once in a while, I'll wake up in a cold sweat with the most vivid nightmare still bouncing around my cranium. They can be very detailed, and contain enough mysterious elements to spin into an entire book. I once dreamed about a woman crossing between planes by walking through a broken doorway, into a place where shadows are alive and represent the person's worst impulses. That one's a story in the making.

    What about you guys? How are your stories born? I'm interested to hear all the different ways worlds are built in the minds of authors, long before they ever appear on paper (or a screen).
     
  2. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    I have tons and tons and tons of ideas. I started an idea file many years ago. Almost every day, I will see something or read something that I think will make an interesting part of a book. I write it down. Once or twice a year, I'll go through the file and combine ideas and come up with plots. At present, I know the next 27 books I'm writing. That number just keeps going up and up and up.
     
  3. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Swaggin like a Baggins Contributor

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    Well, when a plot and a setting love each other very much...

    Just kidding. My stories are born from usually single images. They just kind of grow from there. My current WIP grew from the image of a man in a top hat silhouetted against a city on fire as he smiled.

    I also use writing prompts, too. My next series came about because I was asked what my role would be in the apocalypse, and since I have the survival skills of a toad in the desert, I said storyteller. This created a sci-fi story about... Some things going down. The title was pretentious, but the idea was sound.

    It doesn't really seem to be much else for me in terms of how they're born. Then I just write. I don't plan things. Sometimes I write sequence notes, but more because that's just a list of what has to happen in the story. I switch things around easily.
     
  4. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    I realise now that a story is more than just big ideas. A good story needs to be tight and I have to allow room for structure. It is, therefore, more about the little ideas. The ones a reader hardly notices at first. I guess what I mean is I am learning to be more subtle with my ideas (I hope!).

    When I first started I was literally like a five year old. Anything was possible and that was how I wrote. That was fine for me but not the reader. It must have been like a simultaneous 24 hour Opera, Barry Manilow vs Iron Maiden concert with a blinding laser show and pyrotechnics all whilst having an emergency dentist rip out your teeth. Oops...See what I mean.
    :brb::cheerleader::supercheeky::cry::brb:
     
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  5. Antaus

    Antaus Active Member

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    As odd as it may sound a lot of story ideas have come from dreams. I've always been imaginative and creative so I have strange dreams. I created one character off a dream and had it balloon into an entire medieval high fantasy world.
     
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  6. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    When a girl story and a boy story like each other very much, they get certain urges...

    Seriously, as I'm a short story writer, I usually start by picking a general idea. "I want to write a robot story" or "I want to write a vampire story". I then look round for a plot inspiration.

    Sometimes, the plot inspiration comes first though. I see something and think "ooh, that'd make a good story". From that, I have to figure out what kind of story I want to write.
     
  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Latest example, the little zombie story I posted a few days ago.

    1) Had a thought run around my head to the tune of "What if nothing goes back to normal? Like... nothing."

    2) I sat on that idea for a while (as anyone could imagine) and then thought about wrapping it in a narrative to make it shut up in my head.

    3) Writing a story about actual C19 is a bit on the nose right now, so I picked the closest well-known trope within which to package it.

    4) Most zombie stories bore me to tears because they are little more than:

    a) Scrappy band of ragtag survivors
    b) Stupid "safe zone" up north.
    c) Everyone has a "very specific deadly skill-set designed for exactly this kind of sitch".
    d) Zombies, run, more zombies, more running, inexplicably amazing hair 10 months into the Z.A., blah, blah, blah...​

    4) So I decided to invert pretty much every aspect of the typical assortment of zombie props.

    5) Then I had to think about who was going to tell this story within the narrative. I decided it would be me, a thing I never do (seriously).

    6) I wrote it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
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  8. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Contributor Contributor

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    I think our thought process is rather similar, @Justin Attas
    -Something in the world triggers an idea that then balloons into a much bigger idea (that's how my current WIP started...a coworker told me my jacket made them think of something someone would wear when driving a tank or flying a plane and I then started thinking...hmmm...who would wear a jacket like this in a fantasy world? And then it went from there.)
    -Dreams
    -Random daydreams
    -I'll hear a name I like and start imagining a character around it
    -I'll see a picture or sketch and imagine a story in that setting
     
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  9. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    Uh, well one time I listened to John Romero and how a game of D&D inspired him to create Doom and Quake. That inspired me to do something else.
    Another time I just typed random things into my cell phone and a story came out (did you know an old version of wordpad works on android phones?)
    One time I was a kid and just imagined a giant friendly spider in the woods behind my grandma's house.
    Another time my favorite musician died and my grief manifested as a story.

    In other words, I have no idea where my stories come from. They just kinda happen.
     
  10. JFB

    JFB New Member

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    Out of the esoteric technical miasma.

    ...which I suppose is a fancy way of saying I'll find something mechanical or procedural that interests me, picture it in a fictional setting, and install the world and characters around that. After a while the organic cladding overpowers and edges out the nuts and bolts stuff and the characters come into their own, along with the particular style that matches narrative elements.

    Given, there's not much art involved. Keeps me amused, though.
     
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  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    I don't have many story ideas, which means exactly one so far :D, but that one is so complex that it can encompass pretty much everything I could ever want to write about. I'm even writing a romance short in it :eek:.

    On point, my stories originate with their main characters. When I was a teenager, it was the same. I wrote dozens of pieces back then, and they all originated with a certain situation I found a person in. Same with the story I'm writing now. When I start to write a new short in my story world, I know from the get-go what I want my MC to experience in terms of character development. That puts boundary conditions on the culture the story is set in, as well as on genre and a specific setting. I then start to read up on the broad specific theme (news, blogs, books), which is called 'research' and takes me up, down, right, left, and other directions. One of those is bound to resonate with me in terms of the story and that's what I write then.
     
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  12. LukasEmmer

    LukasEmmer New Member

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    I get a lot of inspiration out of the news. I recommend you not only reading the main articles, but also smaller articles. A lot of interesting stories to find there, which can give you inspiration
    Other inspirations can come from watching movies or series.
     
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  13. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    There's two different things for me; overarching stories and sub-plots or smaller stories.

    Overarching plot-lines, whether for a short story or my full novel project, come from "feels". A form of inner philosophical realization or pitfall that I feel like I must express. From the idea develops a story that best expresses it, with characters that best participate in it. These "feels" are usually similar; I have found myself trying to express a set of them over and over. I reckon you could define these as my core themes.

    Smaller stories or sub-plots, ideas come from anywhere, really. I write down everything, even if it's real dumb, and put it away if I don't feel like including it or expanding on it.
     
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  14. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

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    I began writing stories after taking a university course in ethics. The unfiltered way of thinking allowed me to be more creative. The methods for analysing ethical decisions can also be used to plan world building for novels. It begins with the what-if and continues with each consequence for each stakeholder.

    The source of inspiration is historical fact books. The more unknown, the better. Gives authenticity while avoiding clichés and common misconceptions. Instead of making things up and fact checking afterwards, read the history first and let it inspire with old legends.

    To make it feel real, I mix in fragments of personal experiences and people.
     
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  15. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    Mostly, I push, but when it's coming reversed c-section is needed.

    Most of the times I think of a character in a setting and a situation and it goes from there.

    Fewer times, I think of a grand scheme. Like trying to plan the perfect murder, or the perfect con.
     
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  16. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    I never get it through songs or dreams. I read a lot of real life stories and history. I tend to draw on real life events and then add a little bit of heightened reality. Example: how many adopted kids in this world go in search of their biological parents. Quite a few. But how many of those kids have a wicked Grandfather looking to over throw the world and his main enemy is his own child intent on keeping parent and child apart.
     
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  17. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    I see a really fucking cool scene. Where an alien takes off the helmet and reveals not an alien, but a human. A golden angel marching up to the oppressive secret police of a fascist state and kicking the shit out of them. Deadly assassins fighting their way across a ballroom. Gods and goddesses, fighting great titans and behemoths.

    The stories serve the scenes. Not the other way around for me.
     
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  18. Whitecrow

    Whitecrow Member

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    There are many techniques for generating ideas.

    Concentration
    Just think about the topic you want.

    Brainstorm
    Write on a piece of paper all the ideas, taking into account the most crazy ideas. Then try to develop or combine the written ideas.

    Scamper
    This is a set of methods that change in turn until a result is obtained. One method for each letter.

    Substitute

    Take something that exists, a world or a work, and replace something inside.
    For example, take Narnia and replace a couple of children thrown into this world with two police officers and one criminal that they are trying to catch.
    How the story will change.

    Combine
    It's about a combination of genres. The more unusual the combination, the better.
    Example: Detective romance, in which a girl plays with a guy as a cat and mouse, leaving behind a riddle that the guy will have to solve to find her.

    Adapt
    Adapting old works for a different network or time frame.
    An example of rewriting the history of Don Quixote in the setting of the present time.

    Modify
    It means playing with the size and the importance of objects and events.. You can remember Gulliver or Alice in Wonderland. You can make the same story both global and little local, and this will change the story and its presentation. In Gulliver, the main character at one moment decided the issue of the war between the two kingdoms, and at another moment, he was just a toy in the hands of a child.

    Put
    Find new uses for something that exists. Often used in science fiction.

    Eliminate
    Take someone else's story and cut out one of the very important elements and characters, and think about how the situation would develop then.

    Reverse
    Create a story with a standard reader's expectation from a similar story. Then break all the expectations of the reader .
    Examples ... Kill the main character in the middle of the story and make the villain the main character for the rest of the story. With this you have to be careful the book can be made extremely interesting, and pissed off the reader. This method is cliché-driven. What are the clichés in this type of story, and how they can be broken.

    The Ramsey method
    This is the most difficult of the methods. This method was taught to me by psychologists and for this reason it is so complex .
    Ramsey wrote a theory that, if you take a large amount of information and start looking in it closely and manically, you can find new information or find inconspicuous links. This explains why people with various psychological disorders, like paranoia and schizophrenia, can everywhere find evidence of their rightness and their theories. This theory can also be used in the opposite direction, creating previously unobtrusive concepts at first glance.

    The essence of this method is that you collect the maximum amount of information on the topic that you need to assemble the book. Then you start to study this information, looking for hidden connotations and imperceptible connections in it until the concept of the book is collected from these pieces. The effectiveness of this method depends only on two factors: the amount of information collected and the effort spent studying this information.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2020
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  19. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Many of mine are unfortunately stillborn. Some are premature and need to be nurtured and supported until they can survive on their own. Some are birth defects and I chuck them off a bluff in the woods to feed the scavengers. But every once in a while one is born healthy and vital and with that spark of vivacity.

    As for how I arrive at ideas, I usually combine things. I read all kinds of stuff, a lot of it really weird and esoteric, and sometimes a thread of an idea grips me and I can't get it out of my head. This will combine with something I've observed in life, or some other weird idea, and maybe a few more filter in and stick. It's a sort of Alchemy I suppose—combine elements, subject to heat in the Athanor, and see if you get a reaction or just a fizzle or charred remains. After many failed experiments the require cleanup, I occasionally get something that lives. Lol, ok, that doesn't sound like the standard idea of Alchemy, but many of them were actually striving to create the living Philosopher's Stone, which would turn the lead of everyday experience into the Gold of wisdom.
     
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  20. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    That's an impressive queue... I should really start writing my ideas down while I work on other things!
     
  21. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    Ballooning is the perfect word to describe what sometimes happens when planning a new world lol
     
  22. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    My process is occasionally not unlike this! If it happens to be a powerplant or a certain mysterious mechanism that I drive past, that in itself can spin into an entire story. The characters come much later!
     
  23. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    Always better to trim excess than have to add in a missing piece!
     
  24. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    I often see specific scenes in my head before the overall plot as well. Then I play connect-the-dots from one to the next.
     
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  25. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    This is a great lesson to writers of many different experience levels. So many people think that, as a writer, you must be wholly original. The truth is, whether we mean to or not, we're all borrowing concepts from others. What matters is, as you described, how you combine those concepts with your own twists.
     

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