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More Behind the Scenes: Bringing it All Together

Not sure about the rest of you writers out there, but I used to have a hard time getting enough traction from a single idea to make up an entire story, much less a whole novel-length manuscript.

I’m sure that different solutions work for different people, but the thing that works for me is simply combining ideas. I keep a notebook (OK, several notebooks) with little tidbits and thoughts that might one day be used in a story.Lots of times I come up with something that ends up being a great scene in a story or more often than not, a great premise. For instance, what if everyone in the world were suddenly deaf (yup, blatantly stealing from one of my favorite authors, Jose Saramago, who wrote the amazing Blindness)? Interesting premise, but where’s the plot? The conflict? The resolution?

saramago_blindness_l

Now, let’s take another idea I might have written down. Maybe I had a thought about a guy who was the sole survivor of a nuclear holocaust. Both are average ideas at best on their own. But combine them, and now I have a world full of nuclear war survivors who are all deaf for some reason. From there, I ask myself, how would these people learn to get along? How would civilization be different if we had to start over AND we were all deaf? Now, the story starts to get some bones to it.

That last example was a little silly, but here’s a real example of combining ideas to make up a whole story concept. For Redemption, I had an idea for a long while about the world and the universe actually being created by the power of sound. It’s in the Bible and other religious texts, and scientists always talk about a Big Bang (not literally the sound of a bang, of course, but you get the point). I also had heard of these crazy vocalists called the Tuvan Throat Singers who could mimic sounds of nature by creating faux vocal folds in their throats, allowing them to intonate multiple sounds simultaneously. Combined, these two ideas created a piece of what I was looking for to form the basis of a story.

I also had had an idea about a world where magic existed, but was governed (at least partly) by the rules of physics, namely by the First Law of Thermodynamics, the one about matter being neither created nor destroyed, or the principal of the conservation of energy.

Separately, they were both interesting premises, but together they formed the basis for the story and the world of Redemption. I started thinking, OK, what if this magic was totally based on sound, and this species called the Drayoom had multiple vocal folds so they could literally talk to nature? Next thing you know, I had a story brewing.

So, this is just something for you to think about next time you’re stuck with not enough “meat” to create an entire story. Try to combine, combine, combine, and see what interesting worlds and premises you come up with.

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