You’ve got a lovely little story idea and you want to share it with the world! But…how do you turn it into a story? I mean, one that you can actually publish? Today, I would like to share with you a few opening steps to preparing your idea and finding inspiration.
I have lots of ideas for stories, ranging from WWII, The American Revolution, Modern Day, Retellings of old stories, sweet mysteries for younger girls…I won’t bore you. For the sake of this series, I will take my book The Land of Cotton as an example and explain my current mode of getting inspired to write the story. Note: I didn’t do these things with this book, per say, but I currently try to incorporate them into my brainstorming process.
Also, some of these examples include internet use so PLEASE! if you are not an adult, ask your parents for permission before you go browsing! I am an adult and have my parents’ approval to research. So, I repeat, make sure your parents are okay with you using the internet.
Write out a back-cover blurb (synopsis) for your story. We all read the back cover of a book to get a gist of what the story will be about. Write one for your story. It may not be what you will use in the end, but it is a good exercise and helps you get a feel for your story.
Example: “The year is 1861. With tension growing between the states, the Mason family finds themselves torn: Should they remain loyal to their home state of North Carolina or should they hold to the Union of their nation and fight to retain it? Either way, they can’t make everyone happy, since Mrs. Mason is originally from Pennsylvania and Mr. Mason is from North Carolina. And if they side with the South, what cause will they be supporting? A rebellion? Or something far deeper…and more important?
Join the Masons as they discover a cause worth fighting for. Experience the Battle of Manassas Junction first hand and learn things about our country you won’t learn in your average History Book. Get ready for a battle, both spiritual and physical! Once you know the facts, you can no longer sit on the fence!”
Create a picture file for your book. Anything that inspires you about your story, save in a file on your laptop. For this book, it would be photos of landscapes in the Virginia countryside, pictures from reenactments, horses that look like the ones in my story, people who make me think of my characters, old houses, gardens, battle paintings, clothing, hairstyles, old-fashioned meals, etc. (This will also help you describe things in your story later, since you have a visual!) I strongly recommend caution in looking for pictures on the internet. Get permission first, if you are not an adult, and be VERY specific in what you type into your search engine. You never know what will pop up. I recommend using Firefox.
Write out your character profiles! I cannot stress this enough! You need to know who your characters are and what makes them who they are. My favorite profile to use on all my characters came from www.victoriaminks.com. (When you subscribe to her mailing list, you get access to her members-only resources, which are amazing!) These help you figure out their physical description, family relationships, likes and dislikes, favorites, background, etc. It will also help you make sure your characters are different from each other.
Take the Myers Brigg Personality Type Test for each of your characters. This will also help you keep your characters different from each other. Go to www.16personalities.com to take the test for free. You can also read up on the different personalities to make sure your characters are consistent in every situation. Oh, that I had known about this before…
Make a playlist for your book. Go through your personal music, look on YouTube, find movie soundtracks that make you think of your book. This always inspires me so much! My favorites for my Civil War books were the Gettysburg and Gods and Generals soundtracks, any Civil War song I could get my hands on, old hymns and relaxing instrumentals. (Listening to some now as I type!) Again, get permission first. Also, please keep in mind that every time era had bad music, even the colonial days. Be very careful. For my historical fiction, I read the lyrics to songs, and if they’re good, I try to find a group that sings it that appeals to me. But again, be very careful, because music is one of the doors to your heart. That’s another post for another time, but when in doubt, stay away from it! For my modern day Christmas novella, I used conservative gospel music and conservative Christmas music to inspire me 😊
Collect quotes that make you think of your book. Think of your book’s theme and setting and look up quotes on that topic. For example, I ran across the quote “Don’t complain about things you’re not willing to change.” That applies to pretty much every book I write (even though I snagged it for a WWII idea I had 😊).
Pick your inspiration verse. For me, it is Jude 22 (as if y’all didn’t know that 😊). “And of some have compassion, making a difference.” That personifies what I want to do as a writer. But I also choose a verse for each of my books. For The Land of Cotton, that was Isaiah 19:2a, “…And they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.”
Above all, pray over each step and make sure that everything you are doing lines up with God’s will for your life!
Next time I post on writing, we’ll discuss the plotting stage: What I did and what I do now 😊
Christian. American. Southern. Author.