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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When are character names too unusual?

caution tape over doorI seem to like the most unusual names for my characters. In an earlier novel I was working on I had a female protagonist named Hero. In Driftwood Island, I had Alley, as in the small side street. Along with her friends Cherry and Champaign. Even in Monster in the Basement, which out of all my books has the most average names,  I still had Archer Lee Grant Garfield Haversham the third. Though, he just went by Archer.

I’m not really sure why I like odd names for my characters. Maybe because I personally have such an average, forgettable name?

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Like a tiny island lost at sea, is the character name way out there?

Whatever the reason, I often go tiptoeing along the borderline of “too weird to work” for my character names. And in the book I’m working on now, I have a character that is hanging on a cliff’s edge by a fingernail. At any moment, ready to drop into the “Just too weird to be believable” category.

He’s the co-protagonist and love interest, a snobby vampire librarian, and his full name is Saint Crispin Saint Paul Saint James. Of course, typing all that out throughout the manuscript would be a royal pain so he’s Crispin St. James for short.

I don’t know why, but part of me really likes the name. There’s something old fashioned, and formal about it. I can imagine that name popping up in a Shakespearian play. And another plus about it is I can’t think of a single other book character that has a name like Crispin. Original names stick out a bit, don’t they?

Then there is the question of, how much weird is too weird? To me a name like Saint Crispin Saint Paul Saint James isn’t that unusual, but to others, it might be way out there. It’s always a difficult balance between expressing your own artistic tastes and writing something readers would like. My rule of thumb is: Name them whatever the heck I want, and then let the Beta readers comment if they think the name is too distracting.

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Character names make things colorful!

How do you know when you’re being too artistic with your character naming? Have there ever been unusual names that you just loved but couldn’t use? Please share them in the comments area below.

Can off beat characters have romance?

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I’ve been struggling with this question for months now. The main character of the novel I’m currently working on is really off beat. She’s a former goth girl that got dumped by her vampire boy-friend and now she’s out for revenge. The only problem is she’s kind of an obsessive fan-girl klutz. She’s kind of goofy. But, I want her to find love and have her story have a happily ever after ending. It’s been a lot tougher to make that happen than I thought.

Here’s a few scene’s that I think really highlight her character.IMG_0194

It was Thursday morning and I was still in bed. I wasn’t going to get up for school today, I hadn’t gotten up for school yesterday or the day before either. I was wrapped in my gran-gran’s hand-made blanket that she had made, by hand, just for me. Because she loved me until the day she died. ‘Cause, that’s how love was supposed to be, damn it!

Someone knocked on my bedroom door. Good thing I was already facing that way, because I wasn’t interested in rolling over. My dad poked his head in.

“Honey, could we have a little talk?” he asked, “Me and your mom are kind of worried.”

Our talk went something like this,

Dad: “Honey, we really think you need to start going to school again.”

Me: “ROOWWRR!”

Dad: “Eep, Eep, Eep!” and he runs away.

#  #  #

Once I had the mug shots hung just the way I wanted them, I drew a bullseye in red marker over Robby’s big, fat face and then another bullseye over Crispin’s snooty, jerk face.

I pointed at both of them.

“You two are both going down. You thought you could mess with me? Think again!”

“You,” I said, jabbing a finger at the Robby photo, “You are going to cry, fall to your knees, and beg for my forgiveness.”

“And you,” I said, pointing at the St. James photo, “You are going to worship me when I become an all mighty vampire queen, and then you will scrub my floors.”

“Mwa ha ha ha!”

My mom popped her head into my room, “Honey, is everything alright in here?”

“It’s awesome!” I said, a huge smile spread across my face and I couldn’t stop giggling.

My mom’s eyes darted to the pictures hanging on the wall behind me and then to the shredded photo on the floor that I was standing on.

“Um, okay. . . . Dinner will be ready soon,” she said, then slowly backed out the door.

broken heart in two 3Needless to say, trying to find a way for my main character to change enough to fall in love with someone, but not so much that she doesn’t stay in character, has been a real problem. And to make my job even harder, I for some reason decided to make her love interest kind of a snobby jerk. Seriously, why did I decided to make a tough job even harder?

If I can make this story work, I think it will be a really fun book. It just has a lot of tweaking a head of it.

Have you ever had problem characters that just don’t seem to do what you wanted them to? Are you currently working on a story that you made more difficult to write than it needed to be? I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below.