It’s hard to resist writing the first story that comes into my head on any given theme. That worked out great early on – it got me writing, kept the prose flowing – but recently I’ve found it’s trapped me in some corners, persisting with stories I’m not passionate about because of the importance of completing things.
I think I may have stumbled across a solution, in this blog post on game design by Nick Bentley. You can go and read that post for details, but it boils down to coming up with loads of ideas, then refining the best few, then producing the best one of those few.
I tried it last night. I knew I wanted to write a steampunk samurai story, so I sat and wrote a long list of core concepts for that story. Just single sentences trying to evoke character and conflict. After the first twenty it got quite challenging to make them interesting and different, and by the time Laura got home and broke my reverie, somewhere in the sixties, it was hard work to keep coming up with new ideas.
Looking back over the list it was well worth it. My first few ideas were obvious and brought nothing new to the story telling table. That strained period towards the end was bringing out real novelties, and though some of them were junk, some really engaged my brain.
Later today I’ll try refining that list. As well as picking out my favourites I’ll probably combine some for stronger story seeds. Then I’ll work on their characters and plots before picking one to write. It means a lot more effort in the initial stages, but if it results in a better story, one I’m more likely to enjoy writing and that readers are more likely to enjoy reading, then it’ll be well worth it.
Nick’s process could be used in any creative field. Go have a read, give it a try, and let me know how you get on with it.
Picture by Pascal via Flickr creative commons.