One of the hardest parts of writing is getting started. This is true for a lot of students I speak with, but also for professional authors. This Story Bite (the first of two) will help you with one part of getting your work of fiction (or nonfiction, though my examples here are fiction) underway.
This post is about starting with an idea.
You need to find something you want to write about.
And this—that want—is crucial. Sometimes someone might try to help by asking you what you care about or are interested in. And that doesn’t necessarily lead the idea that’s going to carry you into a piece of writing with the enthusiasm you need to sustain it. There’s one more step.
I’ll get into that in a moment, but let’s have a picture:
This is part of the inside of Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries, Scotland, a very strategic castle in the medieval times: It was on a waterway, which meant arms and supplies for an army. You can see in this picture the benches and the information signs (which are fantastic, by the way). And you can probably tell my enthusiasm for visiting this castle.
I love to visit castles, but I never want to write about visiting castles and the fun I have there. What kind of interesting story would there be in walking around, learning the history? It’s fun to do, something I’m interested in, but not very dramatic. I’d much rather live the history through a work of fiction and write about a conflict in the life of someone who lives at Caerlaverock…or is invading Caerlaverock…or descending on it in a mass of flames or rainbows or insects…you get my drift.
Writing about what interests you, however, can be a gateway into the idea that will sustain you in your piece of writing. Try this: Come up with a list of three things that you care about, or that you’re interested in, or like to do. For me, that might be:
1. Visiting castles
Now delve into each of your listed items for writing ideas. Here’s how I’d do it with my list:
1. Castles: Castles are full of stories, and, to me, the interesting stories are all about people. I could write about someone who works in the castle’s kitchen, or the armory, or is running messages during a siege. Or a mason’s apprentice who helped build the castle. Maybe there’s a demonic creature involved, and the apprentice had sold their soul for talent. (Ooo! I like that one.)
2. Wynncraft: I love the lore, the classes, the weaponry and spells, and the complicated landscape of this incredible MMORPG. If I were to write a story about this, I’d be inclined to imagine an addition to the map and create my own lore—my own history. And my piece of fiction would be written as something that a NPC would relate to the player when they came to my region. I’d figure out the quest too, and the names of the mobs…
3. Crows: Crows are loyal and smart. My idea here is a story from the perspective of a crow that’s had to battle another species—say a natural enemy like a hawk. Or, this would be a fantasy and the crow would see a dragon destroy a village, and decide that since there aren’t any people up for the task of slaying a dragon, the crow will do it.
Have you written ideas for each interest on your list? Read through them. Which are the ideas you’d like to read about? (That’s another great way to find an idea to write about: Write what you’d like to read.) If you’re not sure, think of ways you might combine ideas. (My crow could live at the castle, a pet to someone running messages during a siege, and has been brilliant in helping defend against sieges, but the dragon invading makes the crow realize that it alone needs to save its world—and the story of that crow is the lore of my new piece of the Wynncraft map!)
Have you found an idea? If so, wonderful! That’s going to be your idea for your piece of writing. If you don’t like any of your ideas after this, see if you can come up with new ones, or new interests for your list. Sometimes it takes a few tries.
Thinking about an idea that you really want to write is one of the best ways to start a piece of writing that you’ll keep writing. Once you know your basic idea, or your basic premise, you can go onto the next step, the subject of my next post: your opening line.
If you’d like to share your story bite with me, please submit it through your teacher or with your school email address or home email address and include: your first name, grade, school’s name (or “homeschooled”), town, and state.
Teachers: if your make story bites part of a lesson, please let me know how it went. And share them! I’d love to see your students’ work.