Making sure your story idea is sound

You have a brilliant idea for a story. You can imagine the main character and even the opening scene…but when you sit down to write, you realize that is all you have. You don’t have a complete story with a structured plot and a satisfying ending. All you have is this great story idea.

Last week, I wrote about the different way to come up with story ideas. But it is one thing to come up with a story idea and quite another to make it into an actual novel. You need to make sure your idea is developed enough and that there is adequate conflict to sustain your story.

Now, I don’t typically write short stories, and I don’t write novellas. I write novels that are over 80,000 words. That means there needs to be quite a bit of a story to make it carry through all those pages. You can certainly brainstorm other ideas for things to happen in your novel, but you don’t want to fill the story with “fluff” just to meet a certain number of words. Every scene in your story needs to advance the plot.

Now technically any idea can be turned into a novel or short story, depending on how you handle it. But also remember that some ideas are easier to turn into a whole novel than others and a story idea that works for someone else, may not work for you.

So you have your story idea, what do you need to do next?

One solution is to write out a basic plot outline (even if you aren’t an outline type of person). Consider subplots that can be interwoven into the story and add those to your outline. As you do this, look for holes in your story. Keep asking yourself why – why is this happening, why is this character doing this or that? As you answer these questions and fill in the holes of your story, you will be able to see if you can develop a strong story or if your story plot just isn’t strong enough.

The easiest way to have a strong story is to develop a good protagonist. Do they have a past? What drives them to act in your story? The more details and depth you have to your protagonist, the better. Of course, a good, well developed antagonist is equally important. Remember people don’t stand in your way for no reason and hardly ever is anyone just evil without a reason.

It also helps if your plot lends itself to complications. As I said before you don’t want to add “fluff” to your novel but some plots are more naturally open to twists and turns than others.

There is no easy test to see if your story idea has what it takes to be developed into a full-length novel. You can look at the plot and the main characters and still not know. Sometimes you just have to start writing (or seriously outline for you “plotters” out there) to see what you have.

This is the second in a three-part series. Next week: Coming up with an original idea.

Taking the A to Z challenge

challengeI have never taken part of the A to Z challenge but saw many bloggers doing it last year. I was intrigued enough to put it on my calendar so that this year I could sign up for it.

For those of you who haven’t heard about it, the A to Z challenge began in 2010 when blogger Arlee Bird decided to write a post every day in April (except Sundays). Since there were 26 open days, he decided to match them to the alphabet like author Sue Grafton does her alphabet mystery series (A is for Alibi, B is Burglar and so on). On the first day, Arlee wrote about something starting with A, the next day B and so on through the letter Z. He challenged other bloggers to do the same, and the event is growing each year with bloggers all around the world participating.

Now the organizers suggest you come up with a theme to help you get through the challenge. I couldn’t think of a theme that I liked that would fit what I already post about on my blog. I typically post 4 out of the 7 days of the week with topics ranging from writing, publishing, parenting, quotes and featured authors.

So except for my Friday featured author spot, I plan to follow the challenge in my weekly writings. As for Friday, I will just add a second post on that day to meet the challenge. I can’t really expect my featured authors to adhere to the challenge rules. On the days that I don’t typically post, well, we will just see what I come up with for those days.

Those of you who want to know more about the challenge or to sign up, click here. And you can look for my A to Z challenge posts beginning April 1st.

My kids are happiest wearing just underwear

My kids think nothing of coming home and stripping down to their underwear. With temps in the 90s and 100s during summer time, it makes sense to wear as little as possible. And it seemed fine when they were toddlers to run around in diapers or just their underwear. But now they are 5 and 8, and they still like to strip down upon entering the house.

Lexie at age 3 - doing crafts in just her underwear.

Lexie at age 3 – doing crafts in just her underwear.

We have always been sticklers for them at least to wear underwear. And they are dressed when going outside (though the backyard doesn’t count) and when we have guests over (though we don’t count family as guests). But my husband would much prefer the kids stayed dressed when they are at home or for Jase to at least wear shorts or pants.

I really see no problem with them running around in their underwear while they are at their own home. But I do wish Lexie would show a little less of her body when they have friends over. It is one thing to change in front of the girls in her room but quite another for Jase’s friends to see her running around with just her underwear on.

I assume as she grows up, she will become more aware of her body and want to cover up. I don’t want her to be ashamed of her body. But some of these little boys are not quite used to seeing a five-year-old running around with only her underwear on. At some point (and I am not sure when that is), her body needs to become private and not just to Jase’s friends but to Jase and everyone else.

I would figure by age 7 or 8, kids would begin to cover up, but Jase has no sense of modesty. He is fine walking around in his underwear. He doesn’t mind peeing with the bathroom door open. He doesn’t mind any of us seeing him in the shower or tub.

Parents in the buff

Of course, this discussion on modesty wouldn’t be complete without looking the other side of the issue – when parents should cover up in front of their kids. It isn’t like my husband and I routinely walk around naked. But the kids do have a habit of coming into our bathroom and sometimes my husband or I might walk into the bedroom (or even another room) in just our underwear. (Yep, any nudity on my husband and my part is in the bedroom or bathroom. We aren’t prancing around the house in the buff or even in our underwear.)

It has never bothered me that Jase sees me this way. But I know the time is coming – and soon I would guess – that he needs to not see me without my clothes on. So far he has not mentioned anything about my body and he and his sister still take baths together.

I just don’t want either of them to think that there is something wrong with the naked body. The kids don’t see us on the toilet (we do lock the door just in case) but there is no lock on the actual bathroom door so it is harder to keep that area off limits if we chose to go that route.

From reading other blogs on this topic, it seems that most adults figure out when to start covering up when they begin to feel awkward about it. But once I step over that line and start covering up (or my husband begins covering up) we can’t go back. It has to be an all-or-nothing type thing.

So I don’t know exactly at what age we will start covering up or insisting that they wear clothes when at home or if we even really need to worry about it. Until then, I will just let them be happy playing video games in their underwear.

Today’s Featured Author: Karen D. Scioscia

Today I welcome author Karen D. Scioscia to my blog to discuss her book, Kidnapped by the Cartel.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.  

It seems like I write all the time! I currently write a weekly column for The Charlotte Observer, contribute to Yahoo.com, have several stories published in magazines, write speeches for corporate executives, and am working on two books. My next book is in the true crime genre, about a serial killer (who is languishing in prison at this moment), and the other is a novel that contains a bit of paranormal. The information and thoughts for both of these books are constantly swirling about in my head. I am able to work on more than one project at a time, which astounds even me at times.

What or who inspired you to start writing? 

My father was a college professor (English and Speech) and wrote plays for children’s theater. My paternal grandmother wrote a weekly column in a Florida newspaper until her death at age 96. I think the love and desire to write is in my genes!

Please tell us about your current release. 

My current release, Kidnapped By the Cartel, was inspired by my niece’s abduction at the hands of the Mexican drug cartel. I was physically involved in the eleven day search for her. We were so devastated as a family with what happened, that I was originally going to write a true crime book. But in all of my research, including interviews with the San Diego Police Department, la Policia de Tijuana, and management and staff at various hospitals and rehab centers, I discovered that what had happened to my niece wasn’t an isolated incident. There were many such events – most often with the most horrific results. I compiled my research information along with some of the situations involving my niece, and, using my imagination, created a character, Amanda Tate. The result is a fast-paced, suspenseful, action-charged thriller about drugs, kidnappings, torture and the inside story of what Mexican drug cartels are all about.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

The scenes containing torture were the most difficult for me to write. I had to get outside of myself to graphically describe the gruesome, violent and blood-chilling methods of the cartel. I wanted readers to feel like they were right there with Amanda.

What book are you reading right now?  

Reading is a passion, and I always have more than one book going at the same time. I just finished Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? by Mindy Kalin. Both were great. I’m starting David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and Think: Why You Should Question Everything by Guy P. Harrison. Two of my all time favorite books are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Both books make you think and say a lot in just a few words.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I love to dance and do some of my best dancing in my car while stopped at red lights.

Book Description

Latest BookA beautiful, young American woman was kidnapped and confined against her will in the putrid depths of Tijuana, Mexico. Drugged and tortured, she lived in constant fear for her life. Kidnapped by the Cartel opens the doors into the secret covens of Mexican Organized Crime, a terrifying place where many are lost forever. The slimy backstreets of Tijuana are graphically revealed as the disgusting, gruesome, and violent places they are known to be. The U.S. State Department has warned against non-essential travel along the United States/Mexico border, especially in the violent cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. This novel gives a taste of what goes on behind the fence.

You can purchase Kidnapped by the Cartel on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

You can find out more about Karen on her website.