Developing Ideas

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This is a supplement to my article on the Magnificent Nose site, where I wrote about inspiration, and how I was inspired for my new story.

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The thing is, it’s very easy to be inspired, but where do you go from there? I’ve spoken to people who say that they have all these ideas floating around, but don’t know what to do with them. So I thought I’d share how I work my own ideas into something that can withstand the structure of an entire novel.

The first thing I do is work out my “main” character, and their story arc. This is because I’m a very character-driven person when it comes to my writing. For you, it could be the story arc of the world; its history, culture, politics. I give my characters a starting point – where are they when the story begins? Then I decide where I want them to end up – what have they learnt and how have they grown by the time the story reaches its conclusion?

This will generally be linked to my original inspiration. In this current novel (which I’ve tentatively titled “Broken Blade”, no relation to “Broken Sword”!), the inspiration was an assassin who could no longer hurt anyone without the same injury being inflicted back upon himself. So I started with a broken man, who’s had his whole life’s purpose taken away from him. Born and raised to be the king’s personal assassin, he was not allowed to experience any other way of life. Why did I give him this backstory? To raise the emotional stakes. If he could walk away from the job easily, then there wouldn’t be much of a story there. But if I tweak the history so all he knows is that loyalty and that service to the king, then we have a lot more fun when it’s taken away (yes, I’m a sadist).

That leaves me with a man who is now rudderless, and considers himself a useless burden on his king. From there, the options are endless. He could choose to serve in a reduced capacity, or keep quiet about his affliction and go into hiding from everyone, including the king. If he goes into hiding, would the king feel betrayed? Could we up the stakes again by having him as the only person the king truly trusted?

I quite liked the idea of an unknown man drinking away the emptiness all day and all night, moving from tavern to tavern to keep from being found.

The other thing I decide is how it ends. Because I like my drama, I want a big confrontation between the assassin and the king. With an epic swordfight to follow, perhaps. How they get there, and why they fight… well, that’s part of the plotting process. Which is another article for another day.

With this much, I know where I start, and where I end. I’ve taken the initial idea of not being able to hurt someone else without hurting yourself, and identified not only a main character, but also potential points of conflict. I also know where I want it to lead, so I can create other characters and build my world with that goal in mind.

Again, this is a very character-driven approach. There are many others out there, but this is what works for me. Here’s hoping it will work for someone else, as well!

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