Write With Me!

Step Zero: Concept

Step ZeroThis isn’t a step, per se. I mean, if you write, you’ve probably done this part nine-hundred eighty-nine thousand five-hundred and sixty-two times. (Approximately.)

Step Zero is finding a concept.

Concepts are easy. Concepts are those little wisps of creativity that drift into your brain and make your inner muse sit up and go YES. Most writers have these multiple times daily, even if they don’t recognize them when they happen. Some refer to them as plot-bunnies (as in “ideas that breed like rabbits and gnaw on your brain”).

A lot of the time they start off with “What if?”

“What if there were magic powers in space?” (Star Wars.)

“What if an ogre, not a prince, saved a princess from a dragon?” (Shrek.)

“What if toys can move around but only when we’re not looking?” (Toy Story. Also, some of my nightmares. We won’t wade into that particular mental swamp…)

Sometimes it’s just a mental image – person, place, thing, what-have-you, and you build a story to expand that image.

Look at the franchise that’s evolved around the concept of “immortal alien traveling through time and space in a blue police box.” (Doctor Who.)

So for this week, I want you to pick your concept.

Choose something that makes your heart go pitter-pat, preferably something that’s been setting roots in your brain for a while, with some lovely plot ideas and characters already sprouting from it, since we’re going to tap into all that stored-up creativity. (Studies have shown that letting ideas stew for a little while—within reason—does help the creative process. See? Procrastination has a purpose.)

Once you have your concept, I want you to brainstorm.

People, places, plots, doesn’t matter. Get out a big sheet of paper or your brainstorming tool of choice—computer, Post-Its, bathroom mirror and a dry-erase marker (highly recommended, try it!), what-have-you—and just go nuts. Do this periodically over the next week, but be sure to collect all your ideas in one place for easy reference, either in a file on your computer or in a single notebook, however you want to do it. The key words here are one place and easy reference.

And as promised, I will let you choose which concept I’ll be building from during our experiment. You can cast your vote at the bottom of this post.

These concepts have both been through the brainstorming stage and are ready to head to the next level. Your choices are:

  • Nanoia: modern day Earth, a girl allergic to computers, giant lizard warriors from outer space (here to eat sushi and kick tail, and they’re all out of sushi), and a nanite virus threatening all mankind.
  • Aivia: Earth subjugated by mind-controlling aliens, a girl with psychic abilities, flying armor with shiny-glowy wings, and did I mention the mind-controlling aliens look like elves? (Sort of… if you squint.)

(These concepts are the intellectual property of Yours Truly, who will be well and truly put out if the next blockbuster and/or bestseller is based off of one of these choices.)

So, Concept and Brainstorm. We’ll reconvene Friday where I’ll announce the poll results and show you my own progress on Step Zero. (Of course, you’ll still have until Monday to finish up your own homework before we move on to Step One: Central Change.)

Until next time!



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