6 artistic methods to strengthen your story thought

It's not difficult to come up with a story idea. Developing a story idea that comes out of the park, hits all cylinders and has never been done before is. In fact, it equates to winning the lottery – an unlikely event that can burn your resources if you're not careful.

I remember reading a story about a farmer in South Africa who was tired of pulling stones from his field. He wanted riches and traveled the world in search of treasure. Eventually he returned home broke and exhausted and took one more look at these rocks, and then he recognized them for the diamonds that they were.

6 ways to cut and polish your backyard diamonds

There are numerous debates about the limited number of acts and whether there is anything new under the sun. Virtually all of the stories you read or see on screen are saved to the back of previous stories and borrow plot and characters with similar settings or devices. Humans have told stories since the dawn of human existence so this shouldn't come as a huge shock.

Instead of combing the earth in search of the elusive, undiscovered concept, make an effort to apply your unique talents and perspectives to the ideas you find around you and cut and polish them until they shine. Do it yourself.

Read on, friend, for six ways to reinforce your own story idea.

1. Reduce your story problem

The story revolves around conflict. There is no story without obstacles and stressors. So, examine your story idea and see if you can fit it into a premise with one sentence based on the story problem. A good way to do this is to phrase the problem in a “what if” format.

Just for fun, see if you can identify these films by their “what if” assumptions.

  • What if a tough American expat, who doesn't stick his neck out on anyone, meets the woman he once loved and discovers he's ready to risk his life for her?
  • What if a boy wakes up and finds that he has become a grown man overnight?
  • What if an Amish boy who is not used to violence became the main witness to a murder?
  • What if the President of the United States was kidnapped aboard Air Force One?
  • What if a police chief had to choose between political needs and the security of citizens in his jurisdiction?

The answers to the first four are Casablanca, Big, Witness, and Air Force One. As for the latter, dozens of books, films, and TV shows could be lumped together in this premise, but I was thinking of Jaws when I wrote the example.

I will use movies as examples rather than books often because the huge cost of making a movie means there are a lot less and the chances that you've seen it are better. The points I make apply to stories in a variety of forms.

To reduce your story idea to a simple sentence, you need to focus on the story problem, solidify it, and come to terms with what it means to your story. This sentence becomes the seed from which your story emerges. When you are clear about the problem of the story, you can decide what to put in your story and what not.

2. Push your character to the end of their rope

Think about your particular protagonist and ask yourself what would be the worst that could happen to her. When you inflict this worst fate on her, conflicts arise that ensure emotional involvement, and your character needs to dig deep and really show what she is made of.

I've come up with a few examples:

  • The worst thing for an actor would be to alienate all the directors on Broadway so that no one would work with him. Think of Tootsie.
  • For an astronaut, the return trip home is missing. The Martian.

In my own writing, I have often been too kind to my protagonist and robbed both my character and my readers of a richer, more meaningful experience. Whether you are still in the planning stages or reaching the end of your story, ask yourself what's the worst and you'll be amazed how the answer can strengthen your story.

3. Compare two ideas

Dean Wesley Smith, one of the world's most prolific writers, uses this method regularly. He has a huge amount of old books and digests. He unfolds a volume, runs his finger over the table of contents and randomly stops at a title. Then he does the same thing with another book, combining the two titles, and seeing the benefits.

In Thoughts on Plots, Joan Aiken wrote that it takes two ideas to collide to start a story. Maybe each act has been done before, but you can combine ideas in new ways to stimulate your imagination and create something fresh.

For example, I thought what if Louis Sachar came up with the idea for holes by placing Cool Hand Luke and Flubber next to each other? Do you see how that could work?


Do you need a new story idea? Take two independent ideas and combine them to create something new.

4. Invert a predictable representation

If you think your story idea is too mundane or doesn't offer enough surprises, turn it upside down and see what comes out.

O. Henry, famous for the twists and turns he put into his short stories, did this wonderfully with The Ransom of Red Chief. Two unfortunate criminals kidnap a rich man's young son and hold him as a ransom, but are so amazed at the boy's crazy and spoiled behavior that they pay the father to take the child back.

I used this technique when I came up with the idea for my story A Simple Glass of Water, which also involves kidnapping. I wanted to load the story with a few reversals that the reader wouldn't see coming, so I turned my basic idea on its head and imagined what could happen. It was much fun.


Does your story idea seem too banal? Turn it upside down, reverse a predictable act, and see what happens.

5. Turn the ticking clock

Adding a time crisis to your story idea increases the tension and tension, holds it in place, and escalates the conflict.

Your story might include an up-to-date clock, like in High Noon, or one of the most intense television shows ever made, 24. But look for ways to get creative with it.

For example, the authors of Speed ​​did it with a bus that couldn't drop below 50 mph during Los Angeles rush hour. DOA fatally poisoned a man and had him solve his own murder before dropping dead.

6. Write what excites you

One of the author's most prevalent wisdoms is to write what you know. And that's okay if what you know ignites a fire in your stomach and moves you with the force of a deep charge.

If not, write what does. If you are excited and intrigued by what you write, that excitement will spread to the reader.

If you want to include your reader's emotions, you have to feel it yourself. This is the best way to start writing something exciting.

Diamonds look like ordinary stones until they are cut and polished

Don't be discouraged because you have no idea of ​​a story where Hollywood is going to break your door down to buy the movie rights. Take what you have and polish it up. Turn it around. Crash it against something else. Put a time limit on it. Put his feet to the fire. Write how you mean it.

Use these six ways to strengthen your story idea and surprise yourself with what you can do.

Looking for a great story idea? Check out our one-page guide to turn inspiration into an amazing story idea. Get your copy here (for free!).

Where do you find your story ideas? What is your biggest challenge in formulating ideas that work? Tell us about it in the comments.


Take a look at a recent story idea that you are currently working on. Try one or more techniques from the article to give it a new twist. How does that strengthen the concept? Where are you taking it from here?

If you don't have a current story idea, try Dean's method of linking two titles together to see what sparks are created.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you're done, share your story idea in the comment section. And when you post, please leave feedback for your co-writers!

Joslyn Chase

Joslyn ChaseAny day she can send readers to the edge of their seats tingling with tension and biting their fingernails on the knob is a good day for Joslyn. Get their latest thriller, Steadman & # 39; s Blind, an explosive read that will have you flipping through to the end. What leads a man to murder, their short tension collection, is available for free at joslynchase.com.