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How Do You Know When You Have A Good Story Concept? An Unlimited Number Of Plots Can Play Out On It

Since moving to Austin, I’ve finally picked up a Roku, which is a device for streaming on your TV (I used to use my Nintendo Wii for streaming–ancient, I know!!). And some of the programming on Netflix is different, depending on which device you’re using.

The other day I was scrolling through when I came across a movie I hadn’t seen on there previously. It was called “The Matchbreaker.”

Intrigued by the title, I clicked on the image to see a description of the movie. And this was essentially the plot: a guy gets paid by a disapproving mother to break up her daughter’s relationship, and this one-time gig turns into a career, which then becomes a problem when he falls in love with one of his clients.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you likely remember a screenplay I’ve been talking about that I’m working on right now. It’s called The Breakup Coach.

In my story, the Protagonist is a female who’s been dumped so many times that she decides to become a breakup coach and help other people break up with their significant others, and she’s doing just fine until a client she doesn’t want to take on blackmails her into helping him.

Similar idea… but two totally different stories. How can this be? How can the exact same idea become two (or more) totally different stories?

For one very simple reason: Concept.

Concept is the landscape of your story. In the case of these two stories, The Matchbreaker, and The Breakup Coach, the Concept is the same: a person whose job it is to help people break up with their significant others.

Yet the plots are totally different.

And that is how you know you’ve got a good Concept. Not only is it compelling and conflicted in and of itself, but an unlimited number of plots could be created from it.

The Matchbreaker (or the Breakup Coach) could even be a TV series. The Concept would be the same–a person whose job it is to break up other people’s relationships. And then the plot would change in each episode.

Just like any other TV show.

Same Concept. Different plot (aka: Premise).

Concept is one of the most powerful pieces of storytelling craft. It may even be the most powerful. Because Concept creates the landscape for your story.

But it doesn’t give you a plot.

A landscape is like a stage for the story to unfold on. In this case, the Concept is a character: a person whose job it is to break up other people’s relationships.

That is the stage the plot will unfold on. But it’s NOT a plot on its own.

This is a seriously important distinction to understand. If you don’t get this distinction, you will be headed toward “episodic narrative land.” And that is the worst thing you can ever do for your story.

And a Concept like this, without a plot, lends itself very nicely to an episodic narrative. You could sit down and just write 50,000 words about a person whose job it is to break up relationships. And what you’d end up with is 50,000 words that show us the day-to-day life of a breakup coach.

Interesting to some, maybe. But not powerful enough to be an actual story.

Because something’s missing.

Something MAJOR.

And that’s a Premise, a plot. A purpose for the story. Opposition that’s going to get in the way and make things harder for that break up coach to achieve his/her story goal.

Without that, you don’t really have a story.

The Matchbreaker is now on my Netflix list of movies to watch. I’m insanely interested in how this version of my Concept plays out.

The other reason why it’s important to fully understand Concept (and Premise, and all the other pieces of story craft) is because otherwise you’ll think you need to have a super original and unique idea to be able to write a good story.

But you really don’t.

All you need is a Concept that’s worth writing about. A Concept that, even if it’s been done before, hasn’t been done by you.

You being you is what brings the unique twist to things. Because you’ll take the Concept of “a person whose job it is to break up people’s relationships” and create your own version of the plot.

And if that same Concept was given to 10 other writers, what you’d get are 10 totally different stories. All built on the same Concept.

Now, not every Concept warrants doing over and over again with multiple plots. Some Concepts are good just for that one story.

But what makes a really killer Concept is that it has potential to be multiple plots. That’s when you know you’ve stumbled upon something awesome.

So even though the Matchbreaker is a movie on Netflix, that’s not gonna to stop me from writing my version of the Breakup Coach. Because that story hasn’t been done before.

Yeah, the Concept has, but it’s a good Concept, one that warrants multiple stories.

Same goes for stories like Superman or Spiderman or James Bond or any other Concepts out there that have been used over and over again with many different plots.

The Concept is the same for each story, what changes is the plot.

And, really, that’s why they’re able to do so many versions of the story. Because Concept lends itself to that.

Without Concept, a story falls flat. It becomes average and everyday. Which is not what bestsellers or box office smashes are made of.

Concept provides the stage for your plot to unfold and your characters to come to life.

Want to know if you’ve got a killer Concept for your story? Ask yourself the following questions:

> Does this Concept provide inherent tension and conflict to the story, before the plot is introduced?
> Is this Concept compelling on its own? Would someone hear this Concept and want to read/watch the story, before you’ve told them what it’s actually about?
> Can you use this Concept to create an unlimited number of plots?

If you can truly answer YES to all three of those questions, then congratulations–you probably have a killer Concept, one that’s worth writing into a story (or several).

But if you didn’t answer YES to all three questions, then you may want to keep digging and developing until you have a Concept where you can answer YES to all three.

Coming up with a killer, compelling, I’ve-got-to-read-that-right-now Concept isn’t always easy (although once you fully understand craft, it can be). But it’s always worth the extra time and attention spent making it so.

Otherwise you may end up with an episodic narrative. And that’s not really a story.

Or, at least, it’s not a story that will get you published, land you on the NY Times Best Seller list or get turned into a movie (and I know that’s what you REALLY dream of and want to happen, right??!!).

Spend the extra time working on your Concept. Play around with as many ideas as you can until you’ve landed on one that makes you scream HELL YES!!!

Your story is worth it.

Dream life or bust,

 

 

 

#DreamLifeOrBust #DailyThinkDifferent

P.S. Ready to come up with a killer Concept for your story?? I have a FREE video series coming later this week that’s all about how to create opposition in your stories… and then we’re heading into a FREE 5-day challenge where I’m gonna help you develop a killer Concept for YOUR story. NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, which also means it’s almost time for my annual story planning workshop!! LOTS of storytelling awesomeness coming over the next few weeks. Stay tuned… (and if you’re totally impatient like I am and don’t want to wait, you can grab my FREE story training and development workbook, “From ‘Eh’ to ‘Awesome! 9 Questions to Turn Your Idea into An Actual Story,” and get started right away: www.jenniferblanchard.net)

Here’s Why Most Story Ideas Are Totally Lame-Ass (And What To Do About It)

How many times have you had a writer-friend (or someone in your writing group, etc.) say to you, “I’ve got the best idea for a story!” but then when they tell you what it is, it leaves you thinking: they need to learn the definition of “best” (and the definition of “story”)?

Welcome to the world of agents, publishers and writing coaches.

There are millions of writers out there who all want to write a story. Problem is, most of them have really lame-ass ideas.

I can’t even tell you how many story ideas I hear on a regular basis that start out with something really generic–I want to write a story about love in the south. Or my story is about a girl who escapes a bad home life. Or it’s a coming-of-age story for a boy who just wants to be in a band.

LAME. AVERAGE. EVERYDAY. And that is NOT what great stories are made of. 

Sure, a great story may start with something kinda lame, average and everyday, but with the right information and creativity injected, it becomes something much better.

Just think if J.K. Rowling came up with the idea to write about a wizard-boy, and then just left it at that. LAME!

Because while the day-to-day life of a wizard-boy may be interesting to you–and maybe even interesting to some–it’s not ever gonna be enough to make your story stand out among the sea of stories about wizard-boys. You need more than that.

You need something high-concept. You need a freaking Concept, period. You need a bad guy and a Premise for the story

And it’s kinda hard to have those things when you’re constantly settling for less-than-average story ideas.

Where the Real Problem Lies

The real problem for most writers isn’t that they have lame, average, everyday ideas (although that is the problem for some of them). The real problem is that most writers aren’t generating enough ideas in order to actually uncover the ones that are worth writing about.

So they settle for some half-baked, lame-ass idea, because it’s all they can come up with.

And that’s what’s really sad. Half-baked, lame-ass ideas are career suicide for writers.

Writers who write and publish ideas like that are the reason so many writers believe that it’s “hard to be a successful fiction writer” and “writing fiction can’t possibly be a full-time career” and “successful self-published novelists just got lucky.”

But the truth is…it’s none of that.

The truth is, those fiction writers who have created success did so because they didn’t settle for the first idea that came to them. (Which is another reason why it’s SO important to plan and develop your story before you write it–but that’s a whole other ball game.)

And if you’ve ever had that experience I just described–where no one is buying your novel, no one is leaving reviews and no one except people related to you are telling you that your story is any good–it’s time to own up to the fact that your story is probably pretty freaking lame (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). 

You Need To Do THIS Instead

If you want to avoid being one of those writers who either spends their life pitching and re-pitching and re-writing pitches and getting rejected by a thousand agents and publishers who all pretty much say the same thing–“this story sucks”–or who self-publishes a novel, only to hear crickets…you have to STOP SETTLING.

Settling is for writers who don’t believe enough in themselves to wait for–or keep digging for–the golden idea that will take their story to a whole new level. (Another reason why planning is so imperative.) Writers who settle do so because they’re afraid that’s the only idea they’ll ever have, so they’ve gotta run with it while they’ve got it. 

And some writers who settle have even convinced themselves that the lame-ass idea is actually pretty good (delusions that will get you no where).

But you’re not a settler, right? Because you know that you want an actual, real shot at having a successful fiction-writing career. 

And to have that actual, real shot at success, you’ve gotta have a kick-ass story. Anything less just won’t cut it.

Here’s How To Cultivate Better Ideas

There’s an exercise that I do on a regular basis to help me generate killer ideas–for fictional stories, for nonfiction eBooks, for blog posts, for video posts, etc. You can do this exercise with pretty much anything you need to generate an idea for.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Get out a notebook or a piece of paper
  2. At the top of the page write an intention for what you want to generate ideas for (for example, “Books I can write” or “Stories I can tell”)
  3. Make a list of 30-50 ideas that fit under whatever you set as the intention (an alternative version would be to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and generate as many ideas as you can ’til it goes off)

Now the point isn’t to come up with 30-50 really awesome ideas. Not at all.

The point is to come up with 30-50 bad or so-so ideas, which then clears a path for a really killer idea to come through. Sometimes it comes though on the actual list. Other times it will come through afterward because your mind is free and clear of all those mediocre ideas.

That’s the thing about the mind–it takes in SO much information on a daily basis and you’ve got SO much going on inside there. It can make it really, really tough to “hear” the great ideas (or even the really good ones) when you mind is clogged with crappy, average, lame-ass ideas and thoughts.

This exercise will help you clear those out so you can finally have access to the ones that are actually worth writing.

You Can’t Just Do It Once

A lot of times after I teach this exercise to writers they’ll try it and then say to me, “I did it, but it didn’t work. Or I didn’t come up with anything great.” To which I respond, “Do it again.”

Generating ideas isn’t something you do once or only when you need an idea. No, idea generation should be something you do on a regular basis.

I have “idea generation” on my to-do list DAILY.

Now I don’t always come up with 30-50 ideas. Sometimes I do 5-10 or sometimes just 5, but the point is, I make a focused, conscious effort to continuously generate ideas every day.

By doing this, I get my mind thinking in the right way and focusing on the right things: better ideas.

Most of what I come up with is total crap that I would never do anything with. But every time I do this exercise, I always come up with 1 or 2 really killer ideas that I can act on right away.

And that’s the whole point.

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Give this exercise a try and then come back and report in the comments how it went for you. 

It’s almost time for my sixth-annual fall story planning workshop!!! (Perfect for NaNoWriMo prep.) This year I’ve got the best version of this workshop ever… more details coming later this week. Get on the waitlist right here to be the first to know when the doors open (and to get access to a special Early Bird Bonus).

How To Turn An “Eh” Idea Into A “Gotta Read That” Story

When a blip of inspiration hits you, you have what I like to call an “idea seed.” This isn’t a story, not yet. It’s just an idea that may very well turn into a story.

The problem is, most writers don’t see that. They get the blip of inspiration–write a story about losing love set in the 1930s–and they just sit down and start planning or start writing. But they’ve skipped an entire step in the process.

Before you can turn your idea into a story, you have to develop it.

Your idea needs marination time, it needs to be poked and prodded and questioned. All of this is part of the development process. And it’s how you take an “eh” idea and turn it into a “gotta read that” story.

I’m big on examples, so here’s one from my writing life.

A few months ago, I got an idea seed for a story about a girl who has bad luck with love and who always gets dumped or broken up with, sometimes in an extreme manner (Think: the infamous Carrie Bradshaw Post-it note break up incident).

But how freaking boring is that?!

OK, maybe it’s not totally boring. Maybe some readers in my genre (Chick Lit/Women’s Contemporary Fiction with Romantic Undertones) would be interested in it. But would the majority of readers in my genre?

Probably not.

Would it become a smash-hit bestseller?

Definitely not.

Because there are already a ton of other books out there with a similar storyline. What’s to differentiate this story from all the others?

Most writers don’t think this way, because they believe nonsense like you need to write for yourself and not for anyone else (not true, by the way, unless you only plan on writing for yourself. If you want to be published and get a readership, you need to take your reader into consideration when you’re choosing which ideas are worth writing).

Being a professional writer is about having business sense and knowing what will sell and what won’t. It’s about putting your soul on paper, but doing it strategically and with purpose and intention. 

I think like a pro writer, so I knew right away that my idea seed wasn’t enough. It was just a spark, but I needed the whole fire.

So I sat on it. I let it marinate in my subconscious and I went into my days knowing that if I’m meant to write the story, it will come through to me in a more specific, kick-ass way. (Kinda like the idea of letting a story “chase you” before you write it.)

And, well, not long after that, something came through for this story that was so incredible it actually freaked me out at first. Because I could actually see it becoming a bestseller in my genre. I could see it being turned into a big-screen Hollywood rom-com that grosses millions of dollars at the box office.

It’s scary to think you have a story with that kind of potential.

And what came through to me was this: The Breakup Coach.

A story about a woman who is a “break up coach.” She would actually help people break up with their spouses and significant others. I’m imagining it like “Hitch” in reverse (Hitch, if you haven’t seen it, is a movie about a “love doctor” who helps shy, quiet men get the women of their dreams).

And the differentiator here, the thing that changed this from an “eh” idea into a “gotta read that” story, is Concept. It’s putting something conceptual at the heart of it. (The story still needs a Premise, which I’m working on now.)

It’s taking “a story about a girl who has bad luck with love” and bringing it to a whole new level.

In this case we have character as concept, because her job (being a “break up coach”) is so far out of the realm of what is “normal” or what you’ve seen before that it puts a totally unique spin on things.

Now can you imagine if I had just sat down and started planning (or, even worse, started writing), not truly seeing the big picture or taking the time to develop the spark into an actual fire? I’d have ended up with a much different story. One that wouldn’t have been nearly as good as it’s going to be now that I’ve elevated it to this level by infusing it with Concept.

This is why the story development process is SO important. More so than even the planning process (although that’s super important too). Because without the story development process, you may just end up wasting your time writing the lame story idea that has the potential to really shine if you just gave it the time it needs to become something more.

Patience becomes an important virtue in this case.

I know it’s hard. It’s SO HARD to stop yourself or put the brakes on when you’re burning with an idea that you want to just sit down and start working on. It’s super hard.

But it’s worth it.

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How do you turn your story ideas from “eh” to “amazing?” 

Are you done trying to write a story before it’s ready to be written? Ready for a whole new way of turning an idea into a fully developed story plan? Check out the Story Roadmap Kit

StoryTV With Jennifer B., Episode Two: Are You Too Attached Your Story Idea?

How many times have you written something that you really, really love… but it’s just not working? And yet even though it’s not working, you still can’t give it up?

Whether that’s a character, a story line, a scene or something else, if you’re too attached, you’ve got a serious problem.

Because the initial story idea is never good enough. Not even close.

But if you refuse to let go of what’s not working, you’ll never get to the real story.

Are you too attached to your story idea? In this episode of StoryTV I talk about what being too attached is, why it’s a problem, and how to let it go.

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Are you too attached to your story idea? How are you going to remedy this? 

A Quick Study in Concept and Premise

I love when I come across awesome quick examples of badass storytelling in action. Movie trailers, descriptions on Netflix, and my new favorite place–People magazine. People has a section each week where they recommend a few books, and novels are always in the mix.

This past issue I read a book description that had the perfect example of Concept and Premise. So I wanted to share it with you to give you a quick study in how to use Concept and Premise to elevate your story to a new level.

Before I get into the example, let me first review what we’re dealing with here:

  • Concept is the landscape that your story happens on
  • Premise is the Antagonist (or Antagonistic Force) that you introduce

Without these two things, all you have is a story idea. And while you need that too, on its own it’s not enough to make a story.

Before I Go

The example I’m going to break down is the description in People magazine for the book, Before I Go by Colleen Oakley. (And let me just point out that this is Oakley’s debut novel. A shining example of what’s possible when you know how to write a story that works.)

Here’s the description People magazine offered up for this book:

“In this spirited and original debut, 27-year-old control freak Daisy Richmond learns she has just months to live—and becomes obsessed with finding her husband a new wife.”

Totally brilliant description. In one sentence, you get a very compelling Concept and Premise. And that’s what it takes to get published (traditionally, and it’s the standard you should hold your story to, even if you self-publish).

The Concept here is that the Protagonist has only months to live. This is the landscape (think “setting”) the story will unfold on.

The problem is, most writers don’t push that far with their stories. Most would have been inspired by the idea of this Protagonist only having a few month to live and run with it.

But what you’d end up with if you did that is an episodic, day-to-day account of Daisy’s life before she dies. Might be interesting to some, but most people will call it a dud and put it down before reaching the end.

There has to be something in there to elevate the story to the next level—an Antagonist, a journey or problem that needs to be solved (one that actually has a specific solution). The author of this story remedied this need by adding in a Premise: the dying Protagonist is going to spend her final days finding a new wife for her husband.

The addition of a Premise brings this story to a new level, giving us inherent conflict, stakes, tension and a vicarious ride that a reader will want to go on. You need all of these things if you want your story to work.

Want Help?

The self-paced Story Roadmap Workshop will help you take the idea in your head and turn it into a Concept and Premise. You’ll also create your characters, design your story structure and build a scene-by-scene roadmap.

And as a bonus you get a 60-minute call with me, so I can give you feedback on the work you do using this workshop.

>> Learn more about Story Roadmap

 

Image courtesy of Lidyanne Aquino 

How To Turn Your Idea Into An Actual Story

As a fiction writer, you have lots of ideas in your head for stories you can write. But the problem with most story ideas is this: they’re not actually stories, they’re just ideas.

In order for an idea to become a story, there has to be certain elements in play:

  1. A Protagonist—one that readers will root for
  2. An Antagonist (or Antagonistic force)—something specific to oppose the Protagonist and provide conflict in the story
  3. Stakes—something must be at stake for the Protagonist

This is bare minimum. Without these three things you don’t have a story.

A lot of times writers confuse a “story” with what I call an “idea seed.” An “idea seed” is just the beginnings of a story. It’s a blip of inspiration—a character, a scene, a situation, a location. But it’s not a story.

An Example

To help illustrate the difference, let’s look at an example.

Let’s say a writer came to me with the following idea: a small-town girl who just graduated from college moves to the big city and has to deal with life in her new environment. 

This writer has already written a good portion of her first draft, but then somewhere around the middle she got stuck. She wasn’t sure where else to go with the story.

The first thing I’d point out to this writer is that she doesn’t have a story. What she has is a character, a situation and an episodic timeline of events.

But it’s not a story.

Something has to happen, in order for it to become a story. An Antagonist has to be introduced, stakes must come into play, and there must be conflict.

What this writer has at the moment is an “idea seed.”

The story development process allows you to plant that seed and allow it to grow. You do that by asking a lot of questions.

For starters:

  • Who is this girl?
  • What are her dreams?
  • What made her want to move to the city after college?
  • What does she want in her career?
  • What does she want, in general?

Once we get to know the Protagonist a little, then we can ask things, like:

  • What could potentially get in the way of her getting what she wants?

This will help you to come up with possible antagonists or antagonistic forces that could oppose the Protagonist.

To fill in the details and continue with the example, let’s say this girl has always dreamed of being a serious journalist, so she moved to the city to get a job working at a magazine. More than anything in the world she wants to write about things that matter, she wants to make a difference in the world through her words.

OK, great—we know who this Protagonist is. Now we need to fill in the details on the “something happening” in the story. Let’s say the “something happening” is she has a hard time finding a job in her field, and someone tells her that she has to “pay her dues first,” so she decides to take a job as an assistant to the editor of one of the most popular magazines in the world. Oh, and this editor (aka: the Antagonist) is a total nightmare, bitch-boss from hell.

Now we’ve got a story rolling. But we’re not finished yet, because we still haven’t put anything at stake.

So let’s say the Protagonist has been in a relationship with the most amazing guy for almost five years now, they’ve moved in together and are on the marriage track. But suddenly this new job of hers is getting in the way—she’s not able to spend as much time with him; she breaks their plans because she has to work; and he only sees her in passing now when she gets home from work and before she falls asleep.

You see where I’m going with this one?

This relationship means more than anything to her—but so does working at a magazine and getting to make a difference with her writing. This story now has inherent conflict built right in.

We could keep going with this, developing the idea even further, adding more conflict, a strong theme, and a subplot or two. If we kept going, we’d likely end up with something similar to The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger.

BUT—this idea is still generic enough that, if developed in a different way—a different Protagonist with a different desire, something else at stake, a different type of magazine, etc.—we could create a whole new story.

The choice is yours. You get to take the idea seed in your head and play with it, tear it apart, break it down, add things, take things away and ask questions. The deeper you go and the more you’re willing to move away from your original seed—in order to optimize the story— the better story you’ll end up with in the end.

It’s unfortunate, but many writers skip over the story development stage, and jump right from idea seed to first draft. In doing this you’re missing a huge opportunity to make the most of your story idea—by developing and planning it.

The Story Roadmap Workshop

My self-paced Story Roadmap workshop will help you take the idea seed in your head and develop it into a full-blown story. Then it will walk you through creating your story’s structure and building a scene roadmap that you can use to write a strong first draft.

Story Roadmap also comes with a bonus: a free 60-minute coaching coaching call with me, so you can get feedback from a pro writing coach on the work you’ve done using this workshop.

>> Learn More About Story Roadmap

Image courtesy of Jordanhill School D&T Dept

Do You Have An Idea Or A Concept?

“Why won’t this draft work?!” I threw my notebook down in a fit of brattiness. I was on the third draft of a novel. My first novel. The one I wrote back in 2008.

I’d been writing it for months, and still nothing was going right. The story wouldn’t flow like it should, my heroine was a whiny, alchy mess, and the plot didn’t quite make sense. There were so many holes and I had no idea how to fix them.

I was in over my head. This draft, this story, was not working. I was finally ready to admit it.

Problem was, admitting didn’t change the fact that I’d spent close to a year writing and rewriting and rewriting a draft, just to still be sitting in a mess.

I had no idea what I was doing. I was ready to quit.

If you’ve written a first draft before, you know where I’m coming from. You know what it’s like to have a story feel not quite right or parts that don’t seem to fit. No matter how much you rework it.

Why Your Novel Won’t Work

Instead of quitting, I stopped working on my draft and took a short break. Immediately following that break, I had a breakthrough. I came across a website called StoryFix.com and an author named Larry Brooks. Brooks pulled no punches in talking about what it took to write a novel that “worked.”

A major thing I learned from him–from studying his teachings, his methods–was there are story “ideas” and there are story “concepts.”

Most novelists don’t have a “concept” when they start writing, they only have an “idea.” And that lack of concept is what turns their drafts into a hellish nightmare where they either rip all their hair out, quit or end up in a mental institution (OK–maybe not a mental institution, but the drafting process really can drive you NUTS!).

If you’ve experienced this before it’s because your story was only an “idea” when you started writing it, and not a full-blown “concept.”

It’s like you put the bread in the oven and baked it, but you never added any yeast or gave it time to rise (two essentials for baking bread).

You can’t write a strong first draft unless you’ve dug deep enough to have a concept for your novel. (And writing drafts based on “ideas” can kill your spirit–and your fiction career.)

So What’s The Difference?

Stories, at their core, are all about one thing: something happening.

It’s all well and good to have a story with a fancy theme, a cool setting and an amazing protagonist, but if nothing actually happens, your story’s a dud.

Think about when you tell stories to other people–what are they about 9 times out of 10? Something that happened! An action, a conflict.

THIS is what differentiates an “idea” from a “concept.”

An idea is often a seedling, such as a:

  • Location
  • Backstory
  • Theme
  • Character
  • Setting

But that’s all there is. There’s nothing to elevate the seedling to the next level.

And while these seedlings are great and are completely needed, they don’t, alone, make a story work.

A concept is the stuff great novels are made from–a concept is a full-blown picture of a journey.

Every great story (of modern day writing) has a protagonist who has “something happen,” and then he’s forced (by the antagonist) to go on a journey in order to solve a problem/defeat the antagonist/get what he wants. 

Idea Or Concept?

An “idea” becomes a “concept” when it has:

  1. A Character (Proagonist/Hero)
  2. A Goal (Something the Hero wants)
  3. A Motivation (The ‘why’ that’s driving what the Hero wants)
  4. A Conflict (The Antagonist, what’s standing in the Hero’s way of getting what he wants)

Here’s an elevator-pitch formula you can use to begin turning your idea seeds into a fully-sprouted story concept:

(Character) wants (Goal) because (Motivation), but (Conflict)

Some examples:

  • Jack Dawson (Character) wants to get to America so he can start a new life (Goal) because he’s a street rat with nowhere else to go (Motivation), but little does he know the ship he’s on is headed for disaster (Conflict). (Titanic)
  • Dr. Leo Marvin (Character) wants to enjoy his vacation and the success of his book (Goal) because he’s been working hard and has finally become a well-known psychologist (Motivation), but his newest patient, Bob Wiley, has plans of his own (Conflict). (What About Bob?)

This formula can help you take an idea seed and turn it into a full-blown concept.

Share With Us

Do you have an idea or a concept for your current novel? In the comments 1) Share your concept, OR 2) Using the formula above, turn your current idea seed into a concept and then share it with us.

Image courtesy of Andrew Tarvin