The Story Idea, Part 2: Putting Flesh on The Bones

The first Story Idea article had a nice response so here we go with the next step in the process. This is how I do it so you’re under no obligation to follow it. It’s simply what works for me.

You have your original amazing, super-fantastic, going to blow the doors off the Industry, Idea, but it’s not a story yet. Fair enough, all stories start out as ideas.

So, what now?

We’re discussing World-Building now. After all, you have to build the house before you can live in it and it is no different with stories. I’ll incorporate Characters into this equation later so for now, let’s focus on the Story World. How do we begin?

Here are a few helpful suggestions to get you started. These can be used in no particular order so go nuts:

1. Ask yourself what kind of world is the Story set in. Earth, Venus, The Milky Way, Somewhere over the Rainbow? (hey, it can happen…hehe) The point is that you have to start developing a framework in which to populate your characters. A good way to do this is to ask yourself some basic questions: Where do the characters live? Where do they work? Where do they play? As you can see, there are a LOT of potential questions that you can ask yourself and they are ALL valid. It may not seem so at first but for every question you answer, you reduce or eliminate future problems that can lead to Writer’s Block.

2. Write down descriptions of the distinctive sights, sounds, smells, whatever, of the world you are building. They are important because they act as guideposts for the reader to navigate by.

3. Time. The time period that the story is set in has a huge influence on the Story’s Plot. A Story set at the Dawn of the Industrial Revolution will use different elements than one set in the distant future unless of course you do one of those Apocalyptic type of stories where everything gone to Hades and is broken, mangled, burnt and getting ready to take that final plunge down the proverbial tubes. Note: If you do spring an Apocalypse, consider putting it at the end of the Story. Blow up the World, not much after that unless you have a couple of astronaut apes using time travel…hehe.

4. Consider carefully the Genre you will be writing in. I know I’ve said in the Past that Genre is most important when marketing your Story/Book, but in the initial stages, it’s important because it helps when selecting the construction materials your world is built with. Science Fiction would use things like plastic, sheet metal, rivets or welding, while Fantasy would be more like thatched huts, wood screws and lots of rope.

5. Develop a feel for how the Society operates in this world. Is it a dictatorship? Communist Fantasy? Democracy? Don’t obsess about Politics, just get an idea for yourself how things are run. Even an Anarchy or Feudal System can work. Remember, it’s YOUR story.

These are merely suggestions based on opinion and we all know that wonderful saying about opinions…hehe. The only rule that I want to stress here is HAVE FUN WITH IT. When we enjoy something, we tend to put our best effort into it. Writing is no different.

Now get Writing. 😉

Conspiracy Theories as Inspiration

Take some time to travel The Internet and eventually you will run across some of the best fiction ever created by Human Beings: Conspiracy Theories.

Don’t get me wrong because I love to read a good Conspiracy Theory and frequently use them (with a twist) as inspiration for my original stories. This article won’t go into a lot of detail on specific Conspiracy Theories, but rather how they can be used as inspiration tools. That being said, let’s define the parameters of this conversation. For this discussion, I will be using definitions provided by the friendly folks at Merriam-Webster.com.

What is a Conspiracy?

1) the act of conspiring together.

2) an agreement among conspirators.

3) a group of conspirators.

What is a Theory?

1) the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another.

2) abstract thought : speculation

3) the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art <music theory>

4) a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action <her method is based on the theory that all children want to learn>

5) an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory <in theory, we have always advocated freedom for all>

6) a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena <the wave theory of light>

7) a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation

8) an unproved assumption : conjecture

9) a body of theorems presenting a concise systematic view of a subject <theory of equations>

Now that we have defined what a conspiracy and a theory is, let’s put them together.

The Dictionary Definition?

Merriam-Webster.com defines a Conspiracy Theory as “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”

Putting it all together:

Based on what we know about conspiracies and theories, we can’t help but come to the conclusion that a Conspiracy Theory is essentially the idea that a someone or group of someones is acting in a acting in a secret manner results in something happening. Let’s break that down even further:

Bob is getting ready for work when he slips on a bar of soap in the shower and breaks his neck on the floor. Obviously, Bob wouldn’t intentionally put the soap in a place where he would slip on it and kill himself. The key words “killed himself” are important because they take this event from a simple accident (bars of soap get slippery when wet) and turn it into a targeted event involving Bob, a bar of soap, and a window of opportunity where he gets in the shower, comes into contact with the soap, and then slips and falls to an admittedly embarrassing end. By removing the word accident and substituting killed himself, a simple fall in the shower is now the origin of a Conspiracy Theory.

But wait, as the salesman would say, there’s more!

We don’t know much about Bob so that ambiguity gives room for all kinds of wild speculation.

Did Bob work for the Government or in some other industry that’s not well-liked? If yes, then boom, you have another piece of the puzzle behind Poor Bob’s demise. Who cares if it’s not real. If someone contests your “facts”, you can always claim that the lack of accurate information is the result of some diabolical redaction of facts that can never be proved. If no, then simply make something up. After all, secret conspiratorial families like the Hapsburgs or Rothchilds have been supposedly controlling the world from behind the scenes for centuries. Or…LIZARD PEOPLE! I love the Lizard Overlords because they never show themselves, never seem to be revealed, and always seem to do the crappiest job at running the planet.

Wait, maybe Bob knew how to use Heavy Water, or Deuterium, in a way other than moderating nuclear reactions in reactors or in any number of applications including enhancing the visual capabilities of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, fuel in nuclear weapons, or in certain types of drugs. Bottom line, we’ve just taken a simple and tragic slip in the shower and turned it into a major conspiracy theory complete with bad guys operating in secret, chemicals that can be bad in the wrong hands, and Lizard People. Can’t forget the Lizard People.

Now you see why I enjoy Conspiracy Theories. Where else can you take a whole lot of disparate things, tie them together with a flimsiest of conjecture, and spit out something that sounds good on the other side but has no basis in Reality and no worthwhile use except in making a really good story.

I do feel bad about poor Bob though…. 😉

Insight: Vessel

Vessel was supposed to be my last hurrah with space-based science fiction. At the time it was written, I had created so many spaceships and aliens stories that I was getting tired of the whole thing. Then a funny thing happened.

I decided to take all the disparate elements of a basic spaceship and aliens story and add a crime drama twist to them. Suddenly, I had a whole different story idea and Vessel was born.

I also learned that studying human behavior was a very important thing to do when writing because our motivations tend to steer our course through life. Plus, the idea of something we take for granted might be considered invaluable to an alien.

In essence, Vessel was the last story of its kind that I’ve written to date. These days, I write more character-driven pieces and I’ve not looked back since.

Insight: The Three Safeties

The Three Safeties is an interesting story because at the time it was written, I was experimenting with introducing more darker elements in my stories. I dug deep when I wrote this particular story because I wanted to convey the feeling of someone who had lost everything that they held dear in their lives and had no hope left.

At its core, the story is about choices and how they can affect not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. Those who have read the story picked up on the central theme and have relayed to me how much it resonated with them. That gratifies me, because I’m always striving to create deeper meanings with my writing and take my readers to a new level.

Anyway, this is a short post today because I’m in it up to my elbows with Parallax and need to get back to it. The next Insight article will talk about Vessel. Until then, have a great day and stay positive.

Insight: Corona

Corona is a story that is near and dear to me. Back in 2002, I had left college due to funding issues and had relocated from Ames, IA to San Diego, CA. As you can imagine, moving to a new city with few initial prospects and little faith in my ability as a writer was a very daunting set of circumstances. I was out and about one day job hunting when I came across the Hotel Del Coronado. Man, what a beautiful place! While I was there at the Del, I heard the story of Kate Morgan, a young woman who was found dead on the beach of an apparent suicide back in the Day and that got me thinking of writing a ghost story.

Of course, I could have easily written a standard ghost story, but I decided to give it something of a SF twist and then Corona was born. I started by asking myself three questions:

What if ghost sightings were actually echoes of the past?
What if a structure had been built upon a transdimensional nexus?
What if that nexus was used to imprison an evil person’s consciousness?

Once I had answered those three questions, I set about creating Corona’s story world using elements from another story that I had been previously working on. I like to create connections between some stories and this idea seemed perfect to do a few tie-ins. It didn’t take long to write Corona, but unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be a place to shop it due to a limited market at the time. So, it sat in a file on my computer for quite a few years before I decided to self-publish it on Amazon.

For all intents and purposes, Corona is my first published work and as such, holds a special place in my heart. It’s an added thrill to be able to share it with the world at large.