What to Do When You Have Too Many Story Ideas

If you’re anything like me, your brain swirls ’round at a million parsecs* per hour. So it’s no surprise that story ideas bombard me at the worst times. Those times? When I’m working on another story, of course!

So what do you do? Well, you’ve got three options.

ignore-it

This option is terrible. I’m judging you for choosing this option.This is me judging you.

judging you

Who knows if you’ll ever come up with an idea like this again. Sure, maybe it’s just a kernel of an idea. Maybe it’s an electron of a kernel of an idea. Who cares? Every image can be molded into a story.

What’s to say that Shakespeare didn’t come up with the idea for Hamlet when he looked out the window and noticed a Great Dane walking beside the Avon? (Well, okay, 16th century England probably wasn’t full of Great Danes since they weren’t actually named that until 1755, but you get the point.)

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Cue political ad: “I endorse this method.”

Jot every single idea down in a notebook, phone, napkin, body part, anywhere! I don’t care if it’s just a word. Of course, the more detail you write, the better.

My favorite “huh?!” note is an idea for a sketch I once had. All it said was “zebra on a bus.”

safari20metrobus20by20richard20griffin

via Oxford-Chiltern-Bus-Page.co.uk

I have no idea why that idea made me laugh. I’m sure there was something in it that made sense in the moment, but I’ll probably never remember why. Now, it serves as a good reminder to include detail with each note.

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Sometimes, ideas come to us and get us so worked up we just have to work on them right away. Should you abandon that manuscript you’ve been slaving over for the last six months? Probably not. But there’s nothing that says you can’t take a break. It might even help you gain some valuable distance.

I am the poster child for juggling multiple ideas at once. Call it undiagnosed ADHD or just artist’s brain, but I can’t focus on just one project at a time. Therefore, I sometimes find it necessary to press pause on a project and start working on a new one while the fire of inspiration is burning bright.

Obviously, this course of action is not a great idea when you are working on deadline. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Whatever path you take, just keep writing!!

*Yes, I know a parsec is a unit of distance.

han-shot-first

 

6 Simple Ways to Write Kick-ass Dialogue

We’ve all read a book or script that could have been great if only the dialogue wasn’t so horrendous. Whether you’re a newbie or you’ve been writing for years, dialogue is one of the hardest elements to nail down. If you’re anything like me this isn’t the first how-to post you’ve read on the subject. So here are some basic tips to improve your dialogue. These are oldies but goodies.

Step-One-

Real conversation and literary conversation are not the same things. Why? In real life, conversation is full of filler words like, well, “like” and “well.” People don’t always pay attention, so things get repeated. We use interrogative words “what, who,” or my favorite, “say what now?” Let’s face it, no one wants to read a book filled with “um”s. It clogs up your writing. Trim it out. A good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t advance your plot or characterization, leave it out.

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A lot of what your characters say can be communicated through action. Remember that not everything you want to communicate has to be spoken. Don’t have a character say they are allergic to guinea pigs, have them sneeze next to a guinea pig farm. This is a great way to increase subtext. It’s boring if you know exactly what is going on in all of your characters’ heads all the time. Leave a little room for your readers to piece things together on their own.

Step-Three-

We all have a unique way of phrasing things and so should your characters. Allow their personality to dictate what they say. A shy character will respond to an invitation to address a crowd much differently than a character who wants to take over the world.

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In real life and fiction, names are rarely spoken aloud. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule; if your character is in the military, she will address other service members with their rank. For the most part, you don’t say your friend’s name every time you talk to them unless they have a great name like Hans Heinrich Hügelgrüber. It’s unnecessary and it slows down the flow of your text.

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Remember, always read dialogue out loud! If you can, have a few friends read it to you. Or you can use a speech to text program and imagine that a robot overlord is helping you improve your dialogue skills. You’ll be amazed how many things sound great in your head but sound clunky when read aloud.

Step-Six

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the most important thing is to maintain good pacing. Everyone wants to read a page turner. Snappy dialogue is not only fun to read, it highlights how clever you are.

Example.png

Pam and Ruth want to decide what’s for lunch. Here’s how it sounds in real life:

Pam: Where do you want to eat today?

Ruth: Huh?

Pam: What do you want to have for lunch?

Ruth: Um… I don’t know. What do you feel like?

Pam: Oh, uh, I don’t know. I don’t really care.

Ruth: Me either.

Pam: Ugh. Choosing stuff is, like, literally the worst.

Ruth: How about a salad?

Pam: Nah, I had one yesterday.

[Long pause while they stare into the distance.]

Ruth: Sushi?

Pam: Sure.

Imagine an entire manuscript full of that riveting dialogue. Now let’s see how to spruce it up for our readers.

Pam paddled across the lake towards Ruth. “Where do you want to eat?”

Ruth scanned the lake. A hint of movement caught her eye. With a smile, she turned, “I’ll be right back.”

With barely a splash, Ruth dove under the water and clasped a large trout in her jaws. She emerged onto the shore and tore into its scaly belly. “Care for some fish?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” mumbled Pam with a mouthful of trout.

I forgot to mention that Pam and Ruth are otters.

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Now go forth and craft amazing dialogue!