cj Sez: Where do you get the ideas for your stories? That’s a question that every author I know has heard.
How and where does one come up with an idea, a theme for a
novel? I used to find ideas in the news, but what the media is producing right
now is incredibly ominous and ugly. So, let’s get lighter.
First, let's agree that novels need a theme, a
premise/thread that continues through the novel on which to hang the action and
plot points. And pantsers, this is for us, too (might save a lot of hefty
One way to get a handle on finding the theme/premise is to describe your novel in one sentence before you start writing it.
I’m talking about a logline…a one-sentence description of
your story that introduces your main character, the conflicts s/he will
encounter, and what the cost will be if s/he loses.
Here’s a quick visual formula:
Protagonist + Verb + Antagonist + Antagonist’s Goal A young queen + risks her life + vengeful husband + exterminate
her people . . . becomes A young queen must risk her life and reveal her Jewish
heritage in order to change the king’s mind about exterminating all her people.
(The story of Esther in the Bible.)
British spy + uncovers plot + gold magnate + contaminating
U.S. gold . . . becomes
While investigating a gold magnate's smuggling, a British 007
agent uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve. (James Bond in
Notice there no names or specifics in those loglines. Caveat: A logline is not a tagline. The tagline describes what
kind of emotion the reader can expect to find in your story. It’s simply a
catch phrase, and here’s where the forbidden cliché might be helpful. A cliché is, by definition, a trite and overused expression —a
figure of speech that has become tiresome and uninteresting. Clichés are those taboo things editors tell writers to avoid
like the plague, but clichés can be good fodder for this exercise (I found the
following two paraphrased examples on another site too many years ago to
remember the source.) Cliché “Life is like a box of chocolates” from FORREST GUMP You’d expect a philosophical story that will probably have
some humor, too.
“Don’t go into the water” from JAWS You know this is a story that’s going to scare you.
I like the idea of writing a tagline first because then I’ve
identified the tone I’m going to use when writing my story. . For a love story (which doesn’t always end with a happily
ever after): “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” The reader expects that
angst is involved For a romance: “Love will find a way.” The premise is that there
will be obstacles in the protagonist’s path on her way to happily ever
after. The reader knows there is going to be romance and probably tears.
I always think of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as a
combination of those two genres—an angst-driven love story that evolves into
the happily ever after of a romance.
Here’s a quick visual formula:
Some smiles and truisms that show up with regularity on my Facebook page.
***I am a multitasking procrastinator.
I can put off several things at once.
***Today is Sunday. Share this and within seven days, you’ll get another Sunday.
It really works!
One of my friends ignored this message, and he got a Monday within twenty-four hours.
Believe me, it works.
Noun-verb agreements for authors
We all revise.
***We are all precious in the sight of the Lord.
He may shake His head a lot, but we’re still precious.
➜ on Amazon: Amazon Central Author Page
➜ on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CjPettersonAuthor
➜ on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cj-petterson
➜ on Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3fcN3h6