Story Ideas: How to use an idea and turn it into something your own.

Youtube sucks.

More importantly, it is a time suck. I get stuck on it and I watch videos. I lose track of time and then nothing gets done. But sometimes I find inspiration in the piles of videos. So I came across this:

 

I am a fan of the show. I own a couple seasons, but I haven’t found the time to finish watching all of them. I do watch some of the battle scenes on Youtube as they tend to be well done and are fairly close to historically accurate for TV/ Movies.

For those that aren’t familiar with the show, the story of the series is the one of Ragnar Lodbrok. Ragnar was a Norse Chieftain and then king in the 9th Century. He was the father of historical figures like Ivar the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Hvitserk, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye and Ubba. I am not going to go into too many details about the series, but I will kinda throw some spoilers in. But they aren’t really spoilers as it deals with historical facts and myths.

In history, Ragnar had raided his way across Northern Europe and had a bunch of sons. He had, however, pissed King Ælla of Northumbria. At one point, Ragnar was captured by the vengeful king. Who tortured him and threw him into a pit of snakes. Ragnar’s sons, all six of them, gathered a large army and then invaded Northumbria and Wessex, killing the king and taking large tracks of land.

In this scene, Odin, the Norse God, goes around to each of the Ragnar’s sons and tells them that their father is dead. Each son is doing something different. They are in different parts of the world, from the Mediterranean to working at the forge on a sword.

The scene is wonderful and works well in the TV series. They include the symbolism of the crows/ ravens and the wandering god in different parts of the show so that this scene is foreshadowed and is enjoyable.

I enjoyed the scene so much that I want to use it in my own writing.

But taking that scene is plagiarism. Right?

Wrong. Kinda. It’s complicated.

If I take the entire scene as is and use it in my novel word for word. As if that scene was written down into a book, then it would be plagiarism. But I am not going to do that.

First, I need to break down the scene into it’s different parts. To do that, I watch it a couple more times, on mute. With subtitles so I can see what they characters are saying. But they don’t say much.

The different parts. 

The sons.

They are all established characters. No time is needed to establish anyone. You have met them before. They are well developed characters. So for me to use this scene, I must have the characters established and well developed. I don’t think that I need to be sons though. I am thinking more like blood-brothers. Or members of a type of knightly order. Something like that.

Time.

As the characters are established, this is not an opening scene. Which is why it works for this story. For my story, I am thinking that it can be either the first plot point or the second. I am leaning the first. Establish the characters and then force them to get together.

The Crows, or ravens.

This is something that I will be taking from the scene. Having the God character preceded by Raven’s is something that can carry over to my novel. It adds stability to the character and foreshadows events in the story.

The God.

In the scene, it is Odin who is telling the son’s about their dad. In my story, it doesn’t have to be a father-God. It can be any type of God that does it. He just has to wander around watching people. I can make him less sinister looking that Odin was. But the character was also established. If you look up the opening scene of the TV show, you see him taking souls with him from a battlefield. In my book, I will have to establish him as a character, even if he gets no lines and is only seen from a distance.

Those are the different parts of the scene. Some can be taken as is, some can be tweaked, making the scene feel similar, without the nasty issue of plagiarism. But where and how do I turn this idea, into a non-plagiarized story?

My Manuscripted Universes. 

I have many books in the works, with the vast majority of them in the development stage. I do try and keep my world building down to a minimum. World building is a pain at times and I would rather do it as few times as possible.

I have three major fantasy story universes. Here is a problem, this story concept may not fit into any world that I have created at the moment. It may fit into one, the biggest one. ‘Agersolum’. But maybe not.

That means that if I want to seriously consider this story, then I will have to create or modify a world. But the idea is a good one.

Where to go from here?

That is the next question to ask.

You have found a kernel of an idea. A small flame. How to turn that single scene into a story.

First, I pick a world. You might not have that issue. If you do not, don’t worry about the world. You can do it after you flesh out the story a bit.

After I choose a world, I start asking questions.

In no particular order, these are some of the questions that I need to ask and answer to create this story.

  • Who does the God tell the Sons about?
  • Was he important in the world, and in the story?
  • Was he a POV character?
  • Was he a protagonist of some kind?
  • What did he do to deserve his fate?
  • Who did it to him?
  • Why did he die?
  • Could he have saved himself?
  • Did he sacrifice himself?
  • What did he do to get the attention of the God?
  • Who are the son’s?
  • Why are they important?
  • How is each son different from the next one?
  • How many son’s are there? (Ragnar had six. I don’t need to use six.)
  • Are they good fighters?
  • What are they up to?
  • How many are POV characters?
  • What are there reactions to the news?
  • What is the God, the God of?
  • What is his purpose?
  • What do the son’s do with the news?

As I answer the questions, they lead to more questions, which will also need answers.

For those that don’t have a story universe to write it in, now is the time to add in questions about the world. Draw a map, etc.

That way a story will slowly form out of a single simple idea that I saw at 2am on Youtube.

Until next time.

 

 

 

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New ideas.

So I hate my brain. In the dark, cold recesses of the night. When I should be doing something important like sleeping, my brain is at work.

Some people think about work, or the money troubles that we all seem to be in. But for me, I am thinking about a story idea. Not an old story idea, but it is usually a new story idea.

This time, I thought of a new story centered around the idea of writing a story in the early bronze age.

That was the catalyst of the story. I have talked more about that concept in previous blog posts.

So, then I created a character. Arn. He is a 16 year old son of a tribal Chief. His tribe has been enslaved and killed at the beginning of the story. He is the last of his people and now he must find some way to move forward when all he feels is despair and anger.

The world is a land of mythical beasts, God’s demon’s and demi-gods. They all walk on the earth and meddle in the affairs of the puny mortal humans.

I have created a mythos of the gods. I have created a break down on the land and the different peoples. Magic has been created. I have written the first chapter.

The worst part is that I am excited to write this story. My mind is plotting out the story even now as I type this. I want to write it and get in onto paper.

But I have so many different projects to do.

Why brain? Why!

A short one today.

Until next time.

Four Books

Wow. I mean wow.

After I did the blog about productivity and stuff, I started to think about the projects that I have on the go.

I have my ‘When the Lights Go Out’, ‘Culture Shock’, ‘Space Courier’, and ‘Felix the Swift Part One’.

But that is nothing that I haven’t  blogged about before. I have been talking about them since I have started this blog.

Here is the wow. Before a day ago, I had three of those books in some part of editing. Some needing more edits than others. One in particular might not get published.

After I started think about my projects and the discussion on the Dead Robots Society Podcast about publishing series of books as the way to make money. Also about how there is a trend for shorter length work. Which I am not against writing.

I came to a conclusion. My Felix the Swift book. Originally started as a single novel with bits and pieces being told as flashbacks. I then decided that the flashbacks were too strong to be flashbacks and needed to be a full part of the story. The length of the book went from approx. 90k  to 180k. I then split it into two novels.

As of this writing I have 77k written in book one, while 30k written in book two. I expect another 15k min to be in part one and that is me keeping the plot of the rest of the part down to the bare minimum. I have an end scene for a book. It is really cool.

However. To write the rest of the book the way that I want to do I expect that I will need to  add 5ok at least onto the 77k that I currently have. So what do I do with the added words? My aim is to have 90k books max. Solution. Pull the novels back to 80k and add a third book.

Boom. Felix the Swift is now a Trilogy.

All I need to do is to get the currently projected 15k up past my 50k that I want to do and get it to 80k. An extra 30k. I have plans on how to do that. Other characters that I can make POV. Twists to put into it to get the characters from where they are at the end of book one to my dramatic end scene that was end scene book one, but is now end scene book two.

I am excited.

It means that out of the four projects on the go at the moment, all four of them have a book in editing. First drafts are done.

That means I am in editing. This is utterly awesome.

The next question is, should I publish these books sooner or wait until I have all of the books planned complete?

I am not sure. But that is a question for another day and another blog.

If anyone reading this has a suggestion on what I should do, please comment.

Cheers.

Nathan Pedde

Productivity

I have a dream. (Enter rest of song from Tangled here.)

Anyways. My 5 year goal consists of me making my living from writing novels and other creative pursuits. To do that I have a plan. And you have to have a plan. There is no way to get a to a goal other than to have a plan.

So what is my plan.

Easy.

Well. Kinda.

It is to be able to write six novels a year. That means writing everyday. No stopping. No days off. No fun.

Kidding. Kinda. Days off are fine. As long as the work gets done. As long as the projects get completed and published.

The way to do that is to vary the length of the projects. I have ideas for longer works as well as shorter works. By varying lengths I am able to complete more publishable works than if  I did one long work. Writing a 500k word novel is good if your last name is Sanderson and have huge advances to keep fed.

Me, however, I don’t get huge advances. I don’t have the capability of writing those long works. I also feel that the market for indie books is not for the doorstops. The people that buy indie books want smaller fiction that costs less and that they are able to get through faster.

So that means pulling back the scope of the books from 150k novels to 70k novels and making two novels. I also want to write even shorter length works. I like writing my 6 yr old middle grade sci fi book.

What does this mean?

That means that I must be writing for half the year. I must be be editing novels for the other half of the year. I must be writing between 1ooo to 3000 words a day. This is assuming that my editing takes half the time. If I can get my editing time down that means that I can spread the writing out between other days.

How do you do that?

Cleaner first drafts. Do I mean less spelling mistakes? Kinda. I mean less developmental edits. I mean that I am going to have to do more outlining. I have to plan my stories. Plan the work better. Get the story right the first time.

But this is not an over night thing. It will take time to build up to that. It will take time to get the productivity up to a point where I am writing enough. I do, however, have planned projects to get me to that part.

That is 4 projects under development. The 4 projects is translated into multiple planned novels. I have one current stand alone being beta read. One trilogy with the first novel being edited. My middle grade has the first book out of six being edited. The last project is a pair of novels. I might change it to a trilogy by cutting the same length of book into three parts.

But I will have to figure out how to add a projected 50k words into the ‘first’ part of the project. My wife says that I need to take a page out of the TV version of game of thrones. Add more sex scenes. I am not sure if she is joking or not…

That means that if I get the current projects completed that I will have thirteen novels. If I can get that done it will be amazing.

But this brings up the question of the night. How can writing and publishing works regularly mean that I can eventually quit my day job and write novels for a job?

By writing and publishing work, on Amazon, builds up a library of work that people can buy. As more books are published, means that more people will see the books and buy the books. They may go back and buy other books in your library. People do that.

Well. I rambled enough. More later.

Cheers.

Nathan Pedde

Outline vs Discovery Writing: The Battle Continues

It is time to enter the battle. The epic battle between Outliners and Discovery Writers.

Both sides are frothing at the mouth and ready to fight it out. Ink will fly. Paper will ripe.

Okay that metaphor died on arrival.

My thoughts on Outliners and Discovery writers. Notice that I called it Discovery Writing and not Pantsers. I find that the term Pantsers doesn’t do the writing method justice. I think that it is a little bit of a low blow in the epic fight.

Well. It makes you think that you have no idea what you are doing. That you are just winging it and have no idea what you are doing. That your inability to want to create an outline means that you are somehow incompetent in writing.

The discovery writers, however, don’t like to feel confined in an outline. They don’t want to miss the spontaniousness that comes with discovery writing.

What does this mean for me and my opinion in this issue? I see the good in both sides of the argument.

Outliners like to plan there stories. They go into the griddy details on what needs to happen and when. They look into the little pieces of info that a discovery writer may miss until the 2nd or 3rd draft. The are better at writing more complicated stories that involve multiple viewpoints or time frames.

Discovery Writers enjoy a certain spice in the stories that they write. A well written discovery written story feels more natural and tends to flow better. Discovery written books tend to have less view point characters or time frames.

They both have issues and the issues with the methods need to be mentioned too.

Outlined stories can be stale and the characters may have a motivational problems. It is usually when the story makes a left when the outline goes right. Or that the outline says that a character must do something that the written story doesn’t allow for.

The problems with discovery written books is simple. Plot holes. As the author doesn’t have a plan on what is happening, there can be un-foreshadowed scenes, and plot holes through out the story. Discovery written stories tend to need more revisions that there counterpart.

So what do I do?

It depends on the story. I do both.

I will leave a pause for the reader to freak out at the political statement.

Done?

Good.

I write both. as it depends on the story. I have written some where I have done complete outlines to them. I have written others where I Discovery Wrote it. I have done some where I have gotten part way through a Discovery Written book to discover that I had gotten lost and I need to outline my way out of the mess that I was in.

What was better? It depends.

The Outlined one was a collaboration with my 6 yr old and we did an outline as it is his story that I am writing. He just have the grammar of a six year old.

The Discovery written one was a NaNoWriMo challenge that I didn’t have enough time to get an outline done, but I had a fairly good idea on where I was going. The one that I needed to outline my way out of it was that I was writing a book, then I decided that the backstory was just as entertaining as the story and needed to be part of the story.

My conclusion. Don’t worry about how you write the book. Just write it. Decide how you want to write it and get those words on a page. getting word count every day is much more important than worrying about how you are writing it.

Until next time.

Nathan Pedde