How to Develop a Strong Story Concept

How to Develop a Strong Story Concept
September 6, 2016 4 Comments Writing Advice J.K. Allen

Have you ever had a brilliant idea for a story that petered out once you got started writing? It’s beyond frustrating and a huge disappointment. It also means your story concept was poor. What is story concept? Concept is the story, that’s how important it is. It’s the “what if” question at the heart of your story. The idea your story is built upon. But we need to make sure our story concept is strong enough to build an entire story upon. So how do we weed out the weak ones? Let’s brainstorm.

Now even if you’re a die-hard pantser (one who flies by the seat of their pants while writing) you’ll still need a general brainstorming session to make sure your concept has enough meat to it.

Originality

First, we want to look at how original and unique our concept is. It’s true that there’s no truly original idea out there anymore, but there’s new takes on an old story, unique ways of turning tropes into unexpected avenues. Your concept should have some uniqueness to it.

Conflict & Clarity

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A good concept raises conflict. Without conflict there is no story. The “what if” at the base of your story should create circumstances wrought with tension and bring your characters into clashes with each other. Make sure there is conflict inherent in your concept and that it can be raised again and again throughout the story.

Make sure your concept is clear and understandable. You should be able to boil it all down to a one sentence synopsis. If you can’t, the concept isn’t clear enough to you. One example is a young prince agonizes over avenging the death of his father by killing his uncle. Sound familiar? It’s Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Character Development

You need more than just a concept to create a good story. First and foremost you must have well-developed characters for your reader to connect with. Every character must have a goal to work towards and a flaw to make them human and relatable. They must push the plot forward. One-dimensional characters will make any concept fall flat on its face. These character arcs raise important questions about the themes of your story, adding depth and a deeper understanding of your story. Don’t miss out on these elements.

Brainstorm & Strong Ending

Now brainstorm for your different plot points and the theme of your story. Does your concept present avenues that you can explore? Do they keep the tension rising? Do they lead to a strong climax between your protagonist and antagonist? Which is the best ending based on what’s realistic yet not wholly unexpected as far as your ending goes? Is your concept falling flat when you try to determine your theme? What’s your concept’s emotional focus? Is there deeper meaning? Let your thoughts wander and explore to see if your concept provides enough to develop into a full story. Weed out the weak ideas. It’ll save you trouble in the long run before you make a bunch of false starts.

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What are your favorite story concepts? What made them unique? Do you struggle with developing a strong story concept? What are your favorite ways of getting ideas? Comment below and happy writing.

Julia

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J.K. Allen Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.
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  1. 4 Comments

    Brandon

    That’s some great advice that you’re passing on! I knew that a strong beginning and ending was important, it just took me a few times before I realized that mapping out the story helps the writer build the flow.

    Reply
    1. 4 Comments

      JULIA

      Precisely. I’m a reformed pantser and now I’m all for outlining my story to make sure it hits every step in story structure. Thanks for reading

      Reply
  2. 4 Comments

    6 Tips to Preparing for NaNoWriMo - Our Write Side

    […] we need a story idea to develop (I wrote about developing story concepts here). This is where you brainstorm all possible story ideas and figure out your story goals and […]

    Reply
  3. 4 Comments

    Vera de Groot

    Tip: google ‘explain a film plot badly’ to see how some well known stories are summarized in one sentence. Of course it’s done badly on purpose, but it shows that it /is/ possible to reduce most plot to (almost) one sentence and you’ll get a laugh out of it too!

    Reply

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