Tuesday, August 30, 2016

5 Tips for Giving New Life to Old Ideas

What do you do with old story ideas that seem like such great ideas at the time and then die on the vine? You know those stories. They come to you in the middle of the night or in the afternoon while you’re taking a walk and they energize you at the time, but then they seem to wither and die. You might even start writing the story in a mad rush and then enthusiasm flags and you forget about it until you’re going through an old notebook or cleaning out the files in your computer.

What can you do then? Delete the file? Throw out the old notebook you found it in? Come to think of it, why do those stories never get finished? Is it because they were going nowhere? I admit I have those type of beginnings all over in notebooks, scraps of paper, and the old computer files. Why do I give up on them? Why do you give up on them? Well, sometimes those story just runs out of energy. Sometimes they simply seem to hit dead ends. Maybe you didn’t think them through enough or perhaps the characters never developed into full-fledged people. Usually you will find you need both to really get the story moving forward and to keep the pages of written copy piling up. Here are some ideas for going back to those story ideas and bringing them back to life so you can finish them.

1. Re-think the story concept. Let’s face it—having a great idea for a character might seem like the perfect beginning. You can spend hours working on interviews with that character or developing the character’s inner feelings and outward traits, but unless you have a good plot to go with that person, you could still end up hitting that dead end. Did you come up a story worthy of your character? 
What is that character going to do with that great personality or all those emotional problems? The character still needs more than full development. You might have a wonderful person, but he or she still needs a plot to test his or her will. That character needs a story built around him or her to provide the person a reason for existing. Without the story you will reach a dead end with the character.
 2. Re-consider your charactersThe same is true of a wonderful plot idea. I love to cultivate ideas from news stories or develop intricate plots in brainstorming sessions with friends who agree that our idea can’t miss. Inspired by those ideas I might sit down and write a couple of chapters. Invariably I hit a dead end there too. Why? In this case it’s usually because I don’t know how the character will react to whatever is going on around him or her. In this case there is no fully grown character to face all those tribulations.
Just like the character needs a good story to go with him or her, the story needs just the right character to tell that story. Think about the character who belongs in that story, who will be challenged by the plot.

3. Consider an Old Approach or Character. Huh? That may sound strange, but sometimes all those story ideas need is a little further development. So why try to re-construct the wheel. Look through some of your old ideas of character profiles or plots. What kind of character do you need for that great adventure? A great warrior? Who do you need to solve the murder? A detective? Maybe you will find someone who wanted to write a story about just sitting there waiting for their story in your idea folder.
4. Think out of the box? Maybe you need to go in the other direction. If you have a character you want to write, why not pick something totally different for that person. Why not set down your everyman character who is going to be most out of place in a great adventure and force him to get through it. Make that character develop and grow over the course of the journey. Take a character who will be most uncomfortable in a plot and make the character work to prove he or she is worthy. 

5. Play the old “what if” game.  Take your characters and plots and start reworking those plot ideas in different ways.  Try out several scenarios until you find the one that is right.  Then get started writing. Often it just takes some extra thoughts to make a story start working again. 

So don't abandon those files of  old story ideas. They can still be useful even if you don’t use them immediately. And don't throw out those scenes you might have written on the fly. Sometimes you can rework them and put them into a story you are already working on. For that matter use one of those ideas in your WIP. Put your current character into that situation and see what happens.

 You never know until you try out giving new life to your old ideas.   

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