Are you sick of staring at that blank word doc on your computer screen, racking your brain for ideas of things to write about?
Don’t give up just yet. Here’s a writing exercise that will help unlock your creative ideas and have you coming up with original and great story plots for your next book.
In the early 1920s, a fellow at Pembroke College in the United Kingdom wrote a book based on the Scandinavian legends he specialized in; to the point of people considering his story a simple grafting together of these tales. This book was to become the Lord of The Rings.
The point here is that most people don’t realize just how many stories are influenced by and based on others.
Of course you can’t just retell Cinderella, using the exact same circumstances, and expect to write a best seller – but by warping it, suddenly your story enters the literary world.
Take Jane Eyre, one of the most famous pieces of the romantic era – this can be seen as a Cinderella story with a very strong twist, with allusions to the Big Bad Wolf. An interesting resource for reading more on the different archetypal stories is The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker. This full novel will totally change the way you read novels in the future.
However, that doesn’t really help you write the next piece; and what does is simply a matter of finding your basis story, putting a new face on it, and then smoothing out the wrinkles.
Things To Write About: A Worked Example
To start with, we will work on the rags to riches story type – and focus on the Aladdin plot line.
First of all we need a context – let’s make it modern day, so as to be clear cut from the original folk tale.
Next we need characters – we’ll call the main man Bob.
A love interest – enter Sarah.
The genie – will be a rich man called Alex.
Our antagonist – is the local crime lord, Daemon.
You can include other minor characters on the way, but they will only improve individual scenes; not take up important plot space.
So Now for the Plot
We’ll base this off the original
Bob is cycling along the outskirt of town, when an expensive car swerves to miss an animal that has decided to cross the road. The car goes off the highway, and rolls. Bob immediately pulls the driver out, and resuscitates him. The driver is Alex, a real estate tycoon who lives in the surrounding country. He is thankful for Bob saving his life, and gives him a phone number, telling Bob that whenever he rings that number, he is to state what he wants and it shall be given.
So Bob takes the number, and a couple of days later finds himself in need of a bike, because his has been stolen. He rings the number, and states he needs a new bike. The next morning, he finds a brand new, top of the line bike on his back porch. Amazed, he suddenly realizes the power this man must have.
At this point in the story, we are introduced to Sarah, the girl that every guy in the town is chasing, who works at the local pound. His thoughts immediately turn to her, and his next “wish” (i.e. call) is to have a large donation made to the local pound in his name, for charitable purposes. He goes to the pound a couple of days later, to see the great work his donation has supposedly done. He finally gets the chance to talk to Sarah, and he asks her out on a date.
Up until this stage everything is going great, and we haven’t had to create heaps of wild plot tangents.
Enter Daemon, who has discovered how Bob is getting all these new things (perhaps he had him tailed, and someone heard one of the calls; the important thing here is it’s your choice how you want to build the story). He knows Sarah, as he runs some of his crime operations out of the back of the pound (of course she doesn’t know this), so he can steal Bob’s phone easily when he visits the pound to pick up Sarah one day.
Alex starts to receive lots of phone calls from Daemon, whom he mistakes for Bob, and consequently is giving handouts to unworthy causes – like Daemon’s crime empire. Here too, Daemon also wins Sarah over with his new source of wealth. Bob discovers what has happened, and manages to get Daemon sent to jail, before reclaiming his phone and fixing what has happened. He wins back Sarah, and calls Alex a final time to tell him never to accept any more wishes, as he is truly happy.
What Have We Achieved?
As our story stands, it is a weak response as a piece of creative writing. This is because even when padded out, it would simply be a sequential retelling of Aladdin – but by having it, we know what each scene needs to achieve, and how we will achieve it.
This direction stops the rambling tone that many stories take for creative writing. Each scene can also be given its own purpose to build on the theme of the story; and each character representing something.
The beauty of this method, and why nearly all successful writers use it in some form, is that instead of being given a blank canvas to work with, your picture has outlines to guide you. It allows you to focus on the details to create the perfect work… no more banging your head against the wall for ideas of things to write about.
So once you’ve done your plot overview, think of two themes, and make sure you build on each scene. Also create a message that each character delivers. Including good descriptive language (especially metaphors and similes) Another important finishing touch is proofreading; bad grammar, poorly constructed sentences and misspelled words will attract harsh criticism.
Overall, the secret to creative writing is planning and coherence. Remember to plan everything you write. The writing process will take less time and you’ll find you won’t have to stare at that blank word doc anymore, thinking of things to write about.
So happy writing!