Writing a Story Part 1: The Idea

I’m not sure how many parts there will be to this series. The outcome is uncertain. Maybe that’s the point at this stage. We’ll talk about that in a moment.

Personal News

Not much to report tonight. Tomorrow is Valentine’s and I don’t know what I’ll be doing with Melissa, but it’ll have to be something. Work is busy. I haven’t played a video game in what feels like weeks. I’m still very tired, but there’s no time to take a break.

Upcoming Events and Such

Let’s start with “and Such.” The Water Dragon square site was recently updated. If you’re haven’t ordered The Repossessed Ghost or One for the Road yet, and you’d like to do so and have them signed, you can find the titles at this link. One for the Road will be signed by both Melissa and me.

If you’re in the Sacramento area around March 9th or 10th, you can go to Sac Comic-Con at the Sacramento convention center and skip on the shipping. I’ll have both books available there all weekend, as well as a bunch of other cool stories from Water Dragon.

The Topic: Writing a Story: The Idea

It’s time for me to let some free indirect writing take the wheel, so that you can join me at the very beginning of my writing process. This is the blank page, as it were, and I’m coming to it without any preconceptions or plan. This is the writing process. We start with an idea.

I’m intimidated. I respect this, and I don’t take it for granted. There is nothing in front of me yet. I’m not coming at this with an epiphany like I did when I wrote Synthetic Dreams. I’m not bringing with me a character from an old roleplaying game, like I did with The Repossessed Ghost. I’ve done this kind of writing before, where I sit down with the keyboard in front of me and my imagination firing, but not yet coalescing into any sort of shape. The page is blank. I don’t know if I’ll find the words when I reach for them.

But that’s not too unlike the blog writing. With One for the Road, I had a few sentences of an idea that were not my own, and I was able to writing something very sweet and original.

The idea is not the important part of the writing process. It’s a starting place, but it’s not precious. When you have a story written and you go back and start editing, you might find that your original starting place doesn’t fit anymore. You might rewrite the beginning, or move the beginning forward and write a new starting place. It doesn’t matter. It’s all fluid. The true artistry happens in the edit. The first draft only has to exist.

Before you can launch into your first draft, you have to start somewhere. Where do we want to start this story? What idea do we want to develop? What’s on our mind?

I just finished watching Deadpool 2. Do I want to write a superhero story? Do I want to write about an unlikely hero? Do I want to write a story about a weird, fucked up family that somehow works, even though on paper it looks like it should fall apart?

What kind of characters do I want to spend a bunch of time with? What do I know? Is there some truth I’ve been grappling with lately?

Questions are good. When you ask a question, there is an impulse to try and provide an answer. When the question is coming from nothing and nowhere, then the answers you provide fill the void. It’s like starting a fire with flint and steel. The question draws an answer out of the air, which is the spark, ready to ignite the flames of your imagination.

I like that metaphor. Maybe this story will have something to do with fire, or firefighting. I don’t know much about firefighters, but I can look things up. A firefighter is a good profession to play around with. It’s one that involves bravery and responsibility. We could have a character that exemplifies those qualities, a hero from the start. Or maybe we can have someone that struggles with those, and their journey through the story is them overcoming fear and learning to lead. That’s some fertile ground.

I’m drawn towards some kind of firefighter for our story. Firefighter with horses, in a fantasy setting? Firefighter on a space ship, in a SciFi story? It would be nice to have some fun with this. Maybe this can be another urban fantasy story, like The Repossessed Ghost or One for the Road.

One for the Road doesn’t hit any of the urban fantasy tropes. This new story doesn’t have to, either. I might be tempted to attach this to one of those worlds, but let’s keep it separate, at least for now.

As an exercise for creating a story, on a blog where I’m frequently promoting my stories that are out in the wild, it makes sense that this story should be in a similar genre. So, let’s make this an urban fantasy that involves a firefighter.

We have fire already. Maybe we can have other elements involved. I feel an idea starting to form.

What if our hero has some elemental gift. It could be fire, air, or water, but it’s an undeveloped gift that they’ve used from time to time to help put out or control fires. They could stumble into the supernatural world, or be drawn into it when another elementalist witnesses our hero use their latent and untrained gift to put out a supernatural fire.

This is enough, for now. We don’t really have a plot or characters yet, but we have an idea. We have enough that we can start something.

Tomorrow, we’ll develop this idea a little bit more. Tomorrow, we start brainstorming.

2 thoughts on “Writing a Story Part 1: The Idea

    • Thank you! We’ll see if it has legs. If brainstorming doesn’t turn it into something I want to write, I’ll let this go and generate another idea.

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