How to create a story premise

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Someone recently asked me where I get my ideas for my stories. What they probably should have asked me is how do I take those ideas and mix them up to make the stories I write. See, when I write, I don’t take one idea and write a story based on that, instead I take a whole bunch of ideas and patch-work them together to make a new story.

For example, a few weeks ago I was thinking, ‘I like the Harry Potter novels. I want to write something like that.’ Of course, just writing another Harry Potter novel would be boring because it’s already been done. So instead I thought about all the things I like about the Harry Potter novels.

  1. I liked that it took place in a secret magical world that was parallel to the normal world.
  2. And I liked that the main character started out young and we got to watch him grow and become a powerful leader.

IMG_0114Okay, that’s a good start. I’ll just take those parts. But,now I need to add more parts to it.

Well I really like the anime Full Metal Alchemist. So maybe I could put armored metal golems in my magical world. In fact, what if my main character was raised by a kind metal golem, one that looked really scary. It would give my young protagonist the ability to look beyond the scary or at times ugly exterior of people to see the goodness inside.

Okay, what else? Well, I recently watched the movie Song of the  See (lovely movie!) and I really liked the seclusion of the island they lived on. So, what if the main character grew up on a distant island with only her golem guardian to keep her company and that’s why she doesn’t know about magic and all her powers.

So, now I have these parts, but they still lack something. What am I going to use as glue to really bring all these parts together?

The best glue I’ve found for sticking random parts together is conflict.

FOGGY ISLANDYou might be thinking, ‘Conflict? How’s that going to work? She’s a girl that’s grown up on a pristine island with her loving and nurturing guardian. Then she’s whisked away to a magical school where she finds out she has magical powers and everyone good adores her. It sounds like she has the perfect life!’

Well for one thing, if she’s lived such a happy life with someone she loves on a peaceful island, how happy is she going to be when all that is taken away from her? That could definitely cause a little conflict.

It’s okay, a good start, but I think I could add more conflict.

IMG_0136What if the MC wasn’t adored by all the good guys of the school when she gets there? What if the school is divided into two groups: the good guys and the bad guys. And what if the bad guys are the one’s that take her from her perfect island home. What if they do this because she’s supposed to be their secret weapon against the good guys? The good guys know this and the bad guys know this. So, no matter how good she acts, the good guys don’t like her because she’s dangerous, and the bad guys don’t like her because she keeps doing good things.

Now that could cause some serious conflict!

I think that’s the big take-away I’ve been trying to say through all of this rambling. A story is made by taking different features of other stories or events that you liked and then they are glued together with conflict. I hope this was helpful.

Do you have some tips for creating Story Premises? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment below.

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Writers of a different league

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I was recently reading an older issue of Writer’s Digest and I happened upon the article “Short Stories Big Rewards”. It was a pretty informative piece, so if you can find a copy of Writer’s Digest: Writer’s Yearbook 2017, I highly recommend it. But the part that I latched onto and couldn’t seem to let go, wasn’t really about the short writing format, or even how to use short stories to boost your writing career, it was the couple paragraphs mentioning Hugh Howey.

Of course, I’ve heard of him before and his famous “Wool” book, but what I hadn’t heard was the story behind the publishing of his book. According to the article Howey said, “That’s it . . . I made the work available and did zero promotion for it.”

Seriously?!

book shelf 2He just plopped his book onto Amazon Kindle and he’s insta-famous?! How on Earth is that fair? I slave over my books. I spend hours just plotting new ways to get the word out about my writing, and I get nowhere. Howey put his work out there and walks away and the reading world pounces on it like a half starved cougar.

And then a sneaking suspicion crept into my thoughts and I realized I’d had this same experience before. Back when I was studying for my Fine Arts degree, I remember meeting people like Howey.

In my studio art classes I did pretty well. Well enough to get good grades. I demonstrated the techniques taught and I used them as they were supposed to be used. My paintings and drawing were very correct. They were good, but not great. But every class had at least one student who’s work was truly great. It didn’t matter what they were painting, every brush stroke was mesmerizing. No matter how hard I studied or practiced, I could never match these students . Even with all my skills, there was always something my paintings lacked. The difference between them and me was a difference between skill and talent. Skill can make you correct, but it can never make you great. img_0235

I have a funny feeling that Howey has some serious talent, and unfortunately there isn’t any writing manual for that.

Best of 2016!

broken heartTo ring in the New Year, here are some of the best posts of Odd Author Amanda McCoy.com in 2016, just in case you missed them!

I fought the tech and the tech won   This post is about my adventures with trying to up-grade my website. You can probably guess by the title how that turned out.

Could I have 35,000 words with you?    Wordiness it can be a gift or a curse, but mostly just a “How the heck did that happen” moment.

Life of a song   Music inspires me so much, and is vital to my writing. I even have songs just for some of the characters featured in my books!

Life of a song 2   This post was so popular, I decided to do a sequel!

Interesting, very interesting   I don’t do a lot of book reviews, but I really thought this book was worth posting about.

To catch a fish, you need a good-   I really think that writers thrive by helping each other. By sharing tips and asking for advise, we all get better at our craft.

A movie norm that needs to die   Die, and then be buried deep in the woods in an unmarked grave!

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