I thought this might be a good place to do something I've thought about doing for some time: teach 
how to write a story.  There's a lot that goes into doing it that doesn't always  come naturally to a person. There are other parts I think you continue to learn  or fine tune throughout your life.

So with that in mind, here is
lesson 1: The  Idea

This you would think would be automatic. I have an idea, now what?  Well, I think you need to coax ideas, play with them. In many ways they're the best part of writing. I want to write a story about a boy who can fly. Great! Now play with the concept.  Has he always been able to fly? When did he find out he could fly?  Does he use  wings? Does he fly in some other way? What is going to happen to him? What is  the conflict? What does he do with the ability to fly? How can I turn this into  a premise?

A premise is term I use  to mean a basic outline of a story. It isn't a complete outline, it is more the  idea with a bit of a conflict and perhaps even a conclusion, but not much else.   Using the example above I would say if you started with the idea of a boy who  could fly, your premise would be what if
there was a boy who could fly who  escaped from a secret laboratory and is being chased by his creators who want to  exploit him? or kill him?  That's the difference. A premise is an idea with a  direction.

Now, you may look at the  idea above and say, "Fine, but come on, a boy who can fly? The idea has been  done a hundred times, there are even movies that have done it."  True, but it  doesn't necessarily make it a bad story idea. I'm not sure there are really any  new ideas out there. If you have an idea you can be certain someone else has  thought of it, written about it and made a lot of
money off of it. What makes it  worth writing about is how you change the idea.  Your unique wrinkle will make an  idea into an excellent premise from which to make a book.

Look at vampires. They are the most overused idea in  the world  right now - unless it's zombies. Usually when the idea of writing a vampire story occurs to  me I tell myself no - no way! It has been
done into the ground.  Then I think of  how I could do it differently.  What if I wrote a story about a vampire who is  blind?  Or what if the vampire catches a disease from those he feeds on? What if  he has AIDS because of someone he's bitten? What if he enjoys surfing?  Anyway,  you get the idea. There are ways to mess around with your intial idea so that it  becomes a fresh new premise for a book. (By the way I did just recently write a  short story about a vampire trying to date for the first  time.)

This is all fine when an  idea occurs to you out of no where, but what about when there is an assignment,  or a contest you're interested in and you need a new and creative idea now?  How  do you get it to appear in your head? Easy, play the little game I call, "What  if...?"  What if vampires fought aliens who invaded the earth? The vampires end  up saving the planet because the alien's
weapons won't kill them and they don't  know to use wooden stakes? (Now I'm mixing ideas, vampires and aliens, but  that's okay too).

I had an  assignment and decided I wanted to write a short story about a genie. Well, once  again, what could I do that hadn't been done a hundred times?  Well, what if the  person who rubs the lamp can't see the genie because he's blind? And let's make  it more interesting than that, what if
he's also deaf, so he can't hear the  genie? He doesn't even know he's released a genie from a lamp because the genie  can't tell him, or show him.  Now we have an interesting idea.  The premise  would be, what does the genie do? Does he grant the kid a wish or sneak off? If  he grants the wish, would it be to restore his senses, or is that what the kid  would really wish for?.....and we're off.

That concludes the first lesson.  Lesson 2:  Setting will be the next blog entry.
Possibly tomorrow.

 


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