Finding an Initial Idea to Write a Novel
Recently, I was surprised when someone told me they would love to write a novel, but did not think they would be able to come up with a good enough idea. I hate to think of talent being halted before it even gets going and it was this that inspired me to write this blog.
We are surrounded by story ideas and if you observe your immediate surroundings, you can often draw from what you can see and hear right in front of you to write a novel. You might start with your own past and events that happened to you, or friends and family. Perhaps you could take an idea from something you read in the press from which to write a novel. For example, you could take someone coping with the loss of a baby as a storyline or starting point, where the main character (or hero/heroine) suddenly has to handle dealing with the loss of a loved one. Most people expect to die before their children and yet here they are confronted with having to deal with what most of us would see as the worst event possible. What thoughts went through their mind? Maybe they thought: it always happens to someone else, not me. Why me? They’ll breathe in a minute; they always do on television. Ask yourself questions:
- What were the immediate stresses to the rest of the family?
- How did the woman’s partner cope?
- Were there any siblings and if so, how did they impart the information?
- How did they deal with the situation when flowers turned up on the doorstep, as flowers would usually be associated with something nice, such as a birth, and so would have arrived unexpectedly? If one assumes they would have been unprepared to receive them – how did they react?
- Did any relatives or friends step in to help?
- How did they deal with it?
- What was the coping strategy the parent adopted?
- Did they want to blame someone?
- Was there a funeral?
- Did they want to move on by trying for another baby?
- Were they able to have another pregnancy?
- What was the reason for the death?
- Was it something that could be inherited?
- Maybe it wasn’t a baby but a child who died – what different types of thoughts and emotions would there be, bearing in mind that in this situation, memories would be everywhere?
- Every time they find themselves in a certain place or situation, it will trigger emotions. For example, they might be watching a TV programme that might set them off crying for no apparent reason. Consider what impact this would have.
As illustrated here, once you start delving, there is a whole wealth of possibilities and one question leads to another as your thought process ‘runs wild’. Use it to your advantage to write a novel. Here, one incident has been used for the basis of a story and has been developed.
Explore all sorts of ideas. Has there been a life-changing event in your life? Have you been involved in an emotionally charged incident, overcome a major setback in life or experienced tragedy of your own? What hardships have you overcome? Have you or a friend triumphed over adversity? Would they be happy for you to use their situation as inspiration?
There is nothing wrong with using real events as inspiration for the plot line for writing a novel, as dramatic events happen all the time. The media are very quick to report disasters and in a lot of cases these are later written about and/or a film produced. All events are potential stories from which to write a novel, but it doesn’t always have to be about a disaster or terrible tragedy. Many inspirational and optimistic tales can also be found, such as someone recovering from cancer and running a marathon. Perhaps you could take a historical event or biblical scene and modernise it, as they did in Shakespeare in Love, maybe even giving it a contemporary setting.
Whatever story you choose, remember that when you write a novel, it has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. If your story is about someone innocent going to prison and all the things they have to overcome in that environment, that’s great – but you need to decide what is going to happen at the end. Are they going to prove their innocence, escape, get revenge on the people in the prison? Is it going to have a happy ending or are they going to die incarcerated? Yes, you could always leave it where at the end they are still facing another thirty years behind bars, as not all novels have to have a happy ending, but if your readers are anything like me, they will feel cheated without one. No matter how great the other aspects of the story have been, they will want and expect a decent ending.
So the next time you are listening to the news or chatting to a friend, talk about events in their life. Ask yourself how you can develop and adapt this situation to write a novel. If you would like to read more, take a look at My Guide: How to Write a Novel – part of the My Guide series of self-help, wellness, health and how-to books designed to improve lives.
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