Maybe you’ve come across this problem:
You’ve decided to write a story. You’re excited – your keyboard is ready, the perfect environment is set, a nice cup of coffee or tea sits within reach. As you place your hands on the keys to type, hundreds of stories scramble for the spotlight in your mind. Each one sounds so compelling. Before you can settle on one, the next begs for attention. You freeze, overwhelmed. The screen stays blank.
Do you feel like you can’t move past this problem? Don’t give up on writing yet. Here are four methods to help you choose a story.
1. The daydreamer’s story
What story do you tell yourself the most?
Maybe this feels obvious to you, maybe not. If you have a lot of stories in your head, it can be difficult to identify.
This story would be the one that you distract yourself with throughout the day – on the bus to school, the commute to work, at lunch. You might even lie awake at night perfecting details to the same scenes over and over until you fall asleep.
Even if you don’t know the characters or the setting yet, the idea is comforting enough that it comes to mind multiple times a day. You find yourself wanting to know more about it.
Use this story.
The idea is close to your heart already. It takes you away from the mundane world into a place of comfort, excitement, and creativity. What better way to start writing than with something you know you enjoy?
2. Random selection
Create a list of all the ideas you can think of, using short phrases or sentences to identify each story. These phrases should sum up your ideas in their basic forms. For clarity, try to include at least two of the following:
- A character
- A conflict or plot
- A setting
- A genre
Here are some example listings.
- A child moves in with her estranged father.
- Two people meet at a bookstore and fall in love.
- A teenage boy is trapped in a store with the grumpy old owner during a snowstorm.
These three phrases are succinct enough that you can recognize each idea without knowing more about them. Including at least two of the four requirements will help you get your thoughts down on paper. From there, you can determine which ideas can be used as materials for a book.
Let’s look at why the examples work:
- A child moves in with her estranged father. This includes two characters and an unspoken conflict: the child and parent getting to know each other again.
- Two people meet at a bookstore and fall in love. Here is a plot and genre (romance), between two characters.
- A teenage boy is trapped in a store with the grumpy old owner during a snowstorm. Here characters, setting, and a potential plot (maybe the grumpy owner and the teenager don’t get along) are described.
After you have your ideas down into phrases, put them into a random selection generator. You can input each phrase or number them. Some generators have a feature to make multiple random selections, if you want to narrow down the options slowly.
Congratulations! Whichever story is finally selected will be the one you write!
3. Refine and choose
Follow the steps from the previous section above to create a list of your ideas. Take your time with this. Once you’ve finished your list, narrow it down to three options.
Then, take each listing and add more details to them. This should include the main character, a setting, and the primary conflict. Once you’re certain you have those down, continue to add as many details as you can – whatever you have already imagined for each story. You might have names, side plots, personalities for characters, worldbuilding details.
Here is an example using a popular story as its base:
- A boy goes to wizarding school
- A boy leaves his abusive guardians to go to wizarding school far away. There, he learns more about his past, his parents, and expectations for his future. While trying to fit in, the boy and his new friends discover a horrible enemy is planning something big – and they think one of their teachers is part of the scheme.
Now that you have your three ideas laid out, with as many details as you can think of, it’s time to settle on one. If there is an option that has significantly more details than the other two, consider using that one.
4. Pitch your ideas
Take the list you created from section 2 and pitch it to someone you trust. After they have heard your ideas, ask them if they have any advice or if one of the ideas stood out to them more than the others.
If you like what they say, go for it! Take that idea and start your story.
If you find you’re still leaning toward one of the other options after any of these steps, then you really want that one. Don’t hold yourself back any longer. Do that one.
Remember: your story is in its earliest stages right now. Don’t stress too much. Don’t worry about knowing every character’s name or personality, every place they end up, or every problem they face.
You’re at the start of a journey and you’re full of energy – have fun!
And as always, if you want or need help at any stage of your writing journey, you can contact the Next Chapters staff through email or on our Discord server.