This is part of the series, Exploring the Craft: Writing SFF Fiction.
Closing out my look at generating ideas and turning them into workable stories, there is one more question I think writers should ask during the writing:
Why this story?
Author Shanna Swendson recently wrote about a similar version of the question. I agree with everything she says. And I’m going to delve into one of her uses for the question a little deeper.
Once we’ve developed our initial setting, character, conundrums into a story idea, we can ensure we stay on track with that original idea energy by answering why we want to write this particular story. I’ll use one of my works in progress about a family of magical acrobats as an example.
As I plotted and started drafting, I kept looking for a big baddie for my characters to thwart. My instinct was to find an external character or situation, and I was getting nowhere. In fact, I felt I’d lost my desire to write the story. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.
I already made a habit of writing up a little author note for each of my stories because some publications want that and even publish it along with the story. After revising an incomplete draft of my acrobat story, I added the author note and answered Why This Story.
The answer made clear what the story needed. What I needed in terms of creative energy to finish it. The conflict had to come from within the group of characters. One reason for writing this story was to explore the magic of grandmothers. While there was an overt expression of magic in the story, mastered by the grandmother of the acrobats, it was also a metaphor for the magic many of us have experienced through our grandparents. The tension for the story was wrapped in losing that magic.
The story came together after that, and matches my original vision better than it would have if I hadn’t asked that question. The idea of a story in the writer’s mind always being better than the one that ends up on the page is so common it’s become a meme. Explore the reasons a story idea compels you to write. Let that be your guidepost to finishing the story. It may help you stay closer to the original vision of it.