Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where to place your idea?

One of my writing 'rules' is never to dismiss any story ideas. This is because as a writer it can be all too easy to become convinced ideas are not strong enough or unique enough to be developed into a piece of writing. Often if these sparks of inspiration are given the right treatment they can end up as successful stories.

The key to this can often be finding the right home for a particular idea. I don't limit my writing to one format and this is partly in the hope of housing all my ideas. I consider whether it would best suit flash fiction, short story, novel or drama.

Sometimes knowing where to best place an idea can only come with practice.
I wrote up a short story last year but for some reason it just didn't work. So I used the basis of the story and came up with a one-act play and a monologue, both very different and different again from the original story but as a concept it worked better as a play. A year on and I would like to think that I would have identified earlier on that it wasn't working as a short story. So now I consider these points before deciding what style I should turn to:
  • How many strands to the storyline?
If the answer is more than one than it should be considered for a longer piece of fiction (novel/novella/drama.) For short stories and flash fiction there is normally only one focus and the story should centre around this.
  • How many settings are there?
By settings I mean movement within the story. Not just in different places (character at work/character at home) but within a single place. How much your characters move around the 'set' can dictate the length of a piece of writing. Always consider whether this movement is necessary to the storyline. If it is, then you may want to indulge in it and make it part of the storyline. If it isn't and you are writing a shorter piece you can tighten the story up by limiting the movement.
  • How many characters are there?
It is inevitable that longer pieces will have more characters. I have been guilty of having too many characters in short pieces making it over complicated. Again just make sure you question whether the characters are necessary for the storyline.

These are the factors I always analysis to help decide where to place the idea. The one place I don't put them is in the bin! Twist it round, change it up, flip it over - whatever it takes to make it work - but never extinguish it before you've given it chance to flourish. 


  1. Thanks for this - it's encouraged me never to throw anything away! I'm terrible for getting two pages in, saying 'no, it's not working' and deleting everything. Now I shall save it all somewhere else, and go back with fresh eyes, it might be possible to turn it into something new.

  2. This is great advice, I like the idea of using the same story basis in different formats to see how it works. Great idea.

  3. Some excellent advice. I keep all my ideas in my writer's notebook. You always think you're going to remember them but you don't. There are ideas in those notebooks that I can't even remember writing but one day they'll find their rightful place in a story.

  4. Jane - I used to do that but now save it and come back to it another time!

    Thank you for all the lovely comments x