Tuesday How To: Expanding and Combining Ideas

We all get ideas, sometimes they are planned through brainstorming, or sometimes they come to us out of the blue. Sometimes finding ideas is the easy part, and sometimes it’s not so easy. You can get ideas from anywhere and anything, but sometimes the ideas you get aren’t enough.

So this week, let’s talk about Expanding and Combining ideas.

Expand Your Ideas

Sometimes we get just a glimpse of an idea that when we write it will only get us so far. An example would be either a name or a setting. As an example, let’s use a character, aged 13, who comes to you in an idea saying “You are not my real father.” That’s the start of the idea, but at most it will get you one scene, maybe two. So now, you as the creator need to figure out enough about the thirteen year old to make a true story.

So the easiest way to do this is to write that scene between the thirteen year old and whoever else he/she is talking to. But if you are a perfectionist and like to write in order, that may not be the easiest way for you. So here’s what I usually do.

Most of the time characters come to me first, so I decide who this thirteen year old is talking to. Is it a step father, or an adopted father, or someone else entirely. How does that thirteen year old feel about their real father? What other issues are going on in that character’s life, what are their wants and needs, etc.
This process can literally go on for as long as you need it to, sometimes over days and weeks.

For the sake of this example let’s say that the thirteen year old has a single mother that sleeps around with strange men and that the thirteen year old is struggling with the urge to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She tries to seduce her mother’s latest sleeping partner, but he decides that he is a good guy and refuses her advances. Just like that you have a problem and a longer plot. Depending on where you put it in your order of scenes, toward the beginning or the end, changes your story.

You have a point to write from, and your idea is expanded.

Combine Ideas

If you’re anything like me, ideas are everywhere and you have several of them that are small, but don’t really have enough for a whole developed plot. If you have several small ones that can connect, why not connect them?

Here’s an example. I have several ideas about mermaids and vampires and fairytale creatures, but no real plot for any of them. So recently I have combined the ideas of a mermaid with fire magic, a witch raised from birth, and a dead girl looking for “bus fare”. What do these have in common? A plot (finally).

You might be surprised how easy it is to combine ideas. Even if they don’t seem like they connect, it might surprise you how many options you can come up with. Just be open to many options and have fun with it. If down the line it doesn’t end up working out, or you find an idea that you like, but some part of it doesn’t fit, move it around and add it to your “To be used” list.

Have fun with all of your ideas, and join me next week for the next installment of Tuesday How To! Next week we jump into characters.

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