Maybe the fragment of a story idea came to you while driving, or you thought up the perfect plot twist as you stood in line at the grocery store. Or perhaps you wrote a great short story that features a premise you want to expand upon. How can you now turn your nugget of an idea into a finished, fully realized narrative? The experts at Writer’s Relief have a few tips to help you develop your shiny new story idea to a novel that readers will enjoy.
How To Take A Story Idea From Concept To Finished Novel
Brainstorm and plan. From meticulous plotters to adventurous pantsers, every writer can benefit from brainstorming! Committing the little spark of your novel to paper or a computer document can help you determine if you have enough raw material to fully develop the idea. Of course, it’s okay to stray from your original concept if a better option presents itself as you write.
Think about your characters. Once you have a strong idea for your plot, it’s important to make sure your characters are intriguing and relatable. Taking personality quizzes as your characters is a fun and creative way to get to know how your characters think! Also consider how your characters are interconnected and their relationship dynamics. Character relationships are a great way to build tension in your novel.
Pick the right POV. Your narrative point of view, or POV, is the perspective from which your story is told. While first person (using “I,” as though the story is being told directly by the character) and third person (using personal pronouns like “he,” “she,” or “they,” as though the narrator is outside the story) are the most commonly used points of view, second person (using the pronoun “you”) can be an offbeat way to make your novel stand out. Another option to consider is whether you’ll have one narrator or multiple narrators.
Develop subplots. Once you have a strong idea for the main plotline, you should think about the subplots. A subplot is a side story within your main story—it’s not the novel’s central focus, but enriches your main plotline and keeps readers interested. If your main plot is the nugget, subplots are the pebbles. Consider your side characters and any activities or antics in which they might be involved.
Create the right setting. In your story nugget, the action takes place on an island. But is it a Greek isle, a tropical island in the Pacific, or Ellesmere Island, the world’s coldest inhabited place? Each location will have an impact on the direction of your novel.
Sometimes, the setting can seem like a character all its own. When described vividly, atmospheric details of your character’s surroundings, time period, or weather can add to the mood and emotion of your story. You can use your setting to create poetic contrast in your plot, such as writing a heart-wrenching breakup scene on a beautifully sunny day. Or you might have the setting mirror your character’s emotions: Someone’s nervous, swarming thoughts might be reflected by the chaotic, crowded party taking place.
Add some tension. Make sure your novel’s pacing is always moving steadily forward and that the story has layers of tension to keep readers turning the pages. How and when you reveal new information—as well as showing what the characters stand to lose—will keep your readers invested in the outcome. Having multiple subplots can also help increase the story’s tension.
Use the pillars of your genre as a guide. From romance to thriller to fantasy, there are unwritten rules for each literary genre. Your novel should follow the general direction of the genre, yet add just enough uniqueness to grab your readers’ attention.
For example, you might have an idea for a great new science fiction or fantasy novel. Readers of these genres expect detailed world-building—but what never-before-seen world-building elements can you add to make your story stand out? Or perhaps you’re writing a romance. While romance novel readers want to see an HEA (Happily Ever After, or happy ending), what unique obstacles might your characters face along the way?
And The Most Important Step To Move From Nugget To Novel…
Start writing. If you want to turn your great idea into a completed manuscript, use the seven steps listed above as a guide—and start writing! As Aristotle says: Well begun is half done.
Once your manuscript has been edited, proofread, and polished, there’s another important step to take: send out submissions to literary agents. The research experts at Writer’s Relief can help you target the agents most likely to be interested in representing your book. Learn more about our services, and submit your work to our Review Board today!
Question: What’s the hardest part of turning a nugget of an idea into a full story or novel?