Something that was frustrating me a while back was coming up with solid story ideas. I knew I could, on occasion, but not consistently. Plus, the more I wander into the uncharted territory of pantsing (versus plotting), the more important it is to have something worth writing about.
The interesting question is not, “Where do you get your ideas?” but “How do you pick the ideas that you write about?” or even, “How do you know if/when to write about an idea?”
I walked to the post office this morning, and in the middle of brainstorming a story idea (thus the “Walk more” observation that I added to yesterday’s post) came up with an answer to that last question, but only for SF stories. When I tried to apply the same kind of thing to a fantasy story, no workee. Which, to me, says that there’s a definite way to modify any given idea-kernel for different genres.
1. Come up with 2-3 kernels.
This one is “Babylon” “water” “aliens.”
Now, if I sat down with those three words and started writing, I would flail around a lot.
2. Extrapolate. (This is what makes a SF story. There must be extrapolation. This is why alternate history stories are SF.)
This one is, “What if humans stole something from aliens–it wasn’t the tower that was the problem, per se, but what they were trying to hide within it.”
3. Emotion. (I suspect this is what connects the story with the reader and makes it entertaining in some way.)
The bittersweetness of doomed lovers; lovers are doomed because other emotions are stronger than love (can be from other people). In this case, greed and pride are the source of the conflict. The emotion I want to end with is something like, “That was stupid…but, reasonably speaking, I’d probably do it all over again.” Not regret. Maybe just “gret.”
4. Voice. (This is what makes moving through the story, line by line, worthwhile.)
My POV is a scribe. At the time, they handled a big disparity in subjects: accounting and poetry. What does a poet-accountant sound like? I aim to find out.
–My SF stories that I still like follow this pattern. However, YMMV; it’s not like I’m selling right and left to pro markets or anything.