Reflection: Life Cycle of a Story Idea

In a previous post, I discussed how I get my initial ideas.  If you’ve got the time, you can click here and read the full post, but in case you’re in a hurry or something, it can be summarized with Rule 74 – Don’t search for ideas, but let the ideas come to you.  Of course, after that, the question becomes where do I go from there?  Well, from my experience, I learned that ideas have a bit of a life cycle, which begins with when they come to me.  Ultimately, the life cycle can end when I decide to abandon an idea, but actually just ends up going on indefinitely.

Once I find the idea, it’s time to start contemplating it.  In this stage, I try to build up some more of the details.  I still follow Rule 74 very much in this stage, but I already have something, so I can be a lot more conscious about the process.  As I start to develop more details, I find that I can piece some of them together, and my ability to explore the idea becomes increasingly more conscious, as rather than finding a general story arc, I’m searching for solutions to more individual problems as to how some events should play out.  Who are the characters?  What are they like?  How do I get them from where they are at the beginning of the story to where they ultimately end up?

Sometimes, from contemplating these details, I may realize the idea that I originally thought was good actually sucks, and then I decide to give it up.

I actually find that I very rarely write down a raw story idea.  I do not believe I have a very good memory, but this means the fact that I can remember an idea is a testament to how interested I am in it.

Once I have at least a skeletal outline, and have been contemplating it for some time, I then finally get down and start writing it.  Waiting before I write it gives me more of a chance to develop the idea, and ensures that I remain interested in it.  I learned this lesson from “Welcome to Utopia”, a story I lost interest in after a few chapters of writing, and several ill-fated attempts to revive Wiz.  If I’d thought it out a bit more, I might have realized this, and not wasted my time with the idea.  Regardless, if I can maintain interest in the idea for long enough, I’ll realize I’ve got enough interest to write the story all the way through.

This is not always a fast process.  In the case of Swogprille, it took me three years from when I initially got the idea to when I started writing it down.  If I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere with an idea, I might put it on the back burner for a while, so I can come back at it fresh, but I only ever abandon an idea if I realize it sucked, or I lose interest.  Taking my time with this doesn’t mean the idea’s bad, just that it needs refinement.

I also don’t try to plan out too much.  Though I plan well enough to know the general direction I’m going in, I never know when I might get a real awesome idea mid-story.  It’s a balance between meticulous planning and spontaneity, something I think would make an excellent topic for discussion in the future.

Now, it may seem like the life cycle concludes when I finish the story.  Not necessarily.  Sometimes, in writing the story, I may come up with an idea of how the idea can be done differently, and thus, the cycle reverts to the start.  Other times, I may get an idea for a sequel.  Of course, most of the time, I’ll probably decide the idea’s been developed all I can develop it, and decide to abandon it.  Still, though, even an idea I thought I’d abandoned may end up back at the start.  The main idea behind The Time Machine (readable here) came from a storyline I used in COTG, that I decided to rewrite as a stand-alone story to further explore said idea.

Thus, I don’t believe I can ever truly abandon an idea for good.  Even if I abandon the idea because I realized it sucked, I may come up with ways to fix whatever’s wrong with it.  If I lose interest, something may eventually reignite that interest.   The cycle will never end!  Anyway, I have nothing more to say for now.  Until next time!


2 thoughts on “Reflection: Life Cycle of a Story Idea

  1. Pingback: September News | White Rakogis's Lair

  2. Pingback: Reflection: Meticulous Planning Vs. Spontaneity | White Rakogis's Lair

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