In continuing going through James Scott Bell’s book, Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure, I’ve reached the point where he talks about Plot Ideas
Now, I’ve always thought the ideas were the easy part and it was the getting-ideas-from-head-to-page part that made many of us sweat blood and turn the air blue with obscenities. However, it could be that we’re approaching plot ideas incorrectly.
Do I have an idea?
James Scott Bell has an entire chapter devoted to this which should set some alarm bells ringing if you think plot ideas are easy to come by. The chapter opens with a bit of a revelation; not all ideas are equal. Here, Bell considers that whilst notions themselves are plentiful, these should then be developed into ideas, and then the best of those taken forwards as plot ideas. Looking back in retrospect, I would consider many of my so-called ideas tucked away in my notebook as being simply nothing more than notions.
Who are you?
Interestingly, the filter that is used to decide which ideas are best is yourself. Due to this, Bell places an emphasis not just on “write what you know”, but also “write who you are” – developing a plot idea that doesnt really match who you are could be as doomed as writing a plot based on something you know little about.
Example questions to consider are;
- What are your fears?
- What are your flaws?
- What are your major strengths?
- What are your annoying habits?
- What is your philosophy of life?
How do i do it?
In terms of generating plot ideas, many of us still utilise notebooks, scraps of paper or recording devices as a way to capture those little nuggets of inspiration. However, Bell suggest that there are some ways that we can drive out these ideas onto the page (or screen).
To do this, he suggests that a few rules need to be followed.
- Schedule a regular time
- Get yourself into a relaxed state
- Allow thirty minutes of un-interrupted time.
- Let your imagination come up with anything it likes and record it all
- Do NOT censor yourself, don’t try to edit, just pump out the ideas
- Have fun doing it
- Save all of your ideas
Bell suggests that this process can be repeated as often as necessary, but he does state that after two or three of these sessions, it is time to nurture the ideas and bring the better ones out into something more…
….which I’ll cover in another post later this week.