Author Topic: where do you start?  (Read 6499 times)


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on: August 04, 2007, 10:38:40 PM
do you guys start with an idea, and then find a story to convey it. or do your stories and ideas develop together?


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Reply #1 on: August 05, 2007, 08:00:19 PM
90% of the time I start with the idea or a one-sentence pitch idea  i.e. A Henry the V'th-ish space opera told from the point of view of sentient sandwich condiments.  The other 10% when I don't have cutting edge gold, I have dialogs between characters of opposing viewpoints or interests.  A few times I've taken people I've worked with or for and put a space helmet on them or house them on another planet.

Most of all, when I get past that first draft, I try to find the emotional, human content and let the character shape or misshape the idea.

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Reply #2 on: August 06, 2007, 03:35:57 AM
well, i have ideas that strike me as interesting, but i can't seem to turn them into anything more than the broadest story synopses..

it reminds me of sleep paralysis. i know where my limbs are. i know what it feels like when they're moving. i just can't remember how to start moving them  :-\


  • Hipparch
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Reply #3 on: August 06, 2007, 03:04:05 PM
Here are the three places I start:

1. Dream -- occasionally I'll have a very vivid dream, or a very memorable if not quite as vivid dream, and make notes as to what happened, what was said, who was there, etc.  Then I'll go back and fill in the blanks.  Sometimes this means crafting an entire story to fit a single scene, as is what happened in a recent story I wrote.  (Non-SF.)

2. Idea -- if I have something that I think is a good idea, I'll start writing about it.  That happened with the horror story I recently finished and have sent to a writer friend to critique.

However, almost everything I write starts with the next one:

3. Dialogue -- I love to start a story by dropping the reader in cold.  Starting with some sort of dialogue, I usually do 1-4 lines, and then start adding in dialogue tags and scene framing information.  This is how I started my as-yet-unfinished (about 40% through the first draft) fantasy novel.

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Reply #4 on: September 02, 2007, 05:49:26 PM
I just spent last knight writing up the larger part of a story. The whole thing started with a dream, and over the past two weeks talking with my freinds and thinking about it, more and more details and ideas came up. I finished writing the first draft, and made numerous spelling/grammar corrections as well as adding some things to connect the beginning and end of the story. Every time I read it rhough another little thing pops up here and there. Sometimes it's a good way to hint of the relationship between the two characters at the end, sometimes one of the descriptions is lacking and I beef it up. Last time I checked it was 3800-something words. But mostly I am trying to find space to explain the precence of anthropomorphic animals and to cement the technologies as part of the story. I'm afraid there are quite a few of them. I'm drifting off-topic, so in closing:


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Steven Saus

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Reply #5 on: September 02, 2007, 11:39:47 PM
do you guys start with an idea, and then find a story to convey it. or do your stories and ideas develop together?

In the past, I've normally started with the idea.  I'm currently playing with some ideas I picked up from Michael Stackpole at GenCon regarding plotting.  I highly recommend his seminars and podcast.  I definitely got my money's worth from his seminars;  I do a lot of pen and paper RPGs, and everything he taught will also apply there as well as "straight" writing. 

Anyway (without stealing Mr. Stackpole's thunder) it boils down to figuring out all the consequences of one action.  If A happens, then B and C must happen, and D had to happen in the past... and so on.  Generates a lot of good stuff that way that can be shaped into a story from there.

Walking is the process of controlled stumbling.


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Reply #6 on: September 09, 2007, 09:05:44 AM
I start with an idea, but not a fresh idea.  Usually it's an idea that has had a chance to ferment in my mind for a while.  I'm a pretty observant guy, and my mind is pretty good at coming up with weird connections, and the ones that can slosh around in my head for a while (as little as weeks, as much as since I was 6) and combine with other ideas eventually just might make it to the page.

Also, I try not to write a story on just one idea; that tends to turn into just writing an idea.  If I can combine at least two ideas, and they work well together, I find I get much better results.


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Reply #7 on: September 09, 2007, 01:21:20 PM
Anyone start with a character/narrator in their head and let the story develop from there?

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


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Reply #8 on: September 09, 2007, 07:27:27 PM
I almost always start with an image, i.e., I have some visual thing that I can't shake -

In the Union Dues stories -

Iron Bars - A Superhero in a very small jail cell
Off-White Lies - Cindel looking over the mezzanine at The Village
A Handshake, A Gold Watch, A Candle - A streak of orange light across the night sky
The Baby and the Bathwater - A nervous mother in electricians gloves and a rubber apron holding a baby
Cleanup in Aisle 5 - A super being pelted with eggs

Then what I do is write the story to get to that image, then complete the story from that image on. Nothing scientific about it really, but each story takes some amount of time or number of drafts to get right. For example, The Baby and the Bathwater took nine months and about five drafts before I was happy with it. While, Cleanup in Aisle Five took three drafts and two days, Send in the Clowns took two years and six drafts, All That We Leave Behind tood six months and seven drafts. Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw took two drafts and 15 years (between original typewritten copy and second draft that I retyped and submitted).

« Last Edit: September 10, 2007, 03:19:43 PM by jrderego »

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Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Reply #9 on: September 11, 2007, 04:11:18 PM
For me, it bounces back and forth between Character and Milieu.  I've always been a big believer in the idea that characters make stories work more than any other element present, so usually it's a person and their conflict springing to mind that sets me in motion.

That said, I'm another writer who has found dreams useful muses.

Published genre fiction author with stories in print and upcoming.

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Reply #10 on: September 11, 2007, 04:51:18 PM
I tend to get an idea and try to write a quick scene around to see if it would work. I don't know if I am a bit weird, but my friends were kind of shocked that I don't write a story in a linear fashion (Beginning - Middle - End). I tend to run with an idea, jot down a quick scene and if it works, repeat the process. If the idea is sound, I'll know within a week because the scenes will start to come pretty fast and furious. Many times, I don't know how the the story will end until a day or two before I write the last bit.

"You write novellas? Isn't that like the red-haried stepchild of novels?"