Saturday, August 04, 2007

Idea to Story

There have been some good blog discussions around on which comes first - character or story. I think the concensus was 'whatever works for you'. Which I think is absolutely right. But to me, and this may be entirely personal, it's a bit like arguing over the most important ingredient in a chicken salad sandwich. Most people forget to mention the bread. And without that you've got well ...... a chicken salad.

To me the bread is the ''idea''. The very basic kernal that hits you as a good concept. Something that can be explored dramatically or comedically. How you then proceed to explore that idea is a matter for individual preference.

But if you don't expand that idea into a premise first then you are making life very hard for yourself. This is the way I approach it and the terminology I use. Your mileage may vary.

Here's an idea - We all think we are living our normal lives, but it's all an illusion created by robot overlords.

Here's a premise. - one of us wakes up from the illusion and discovers the truth. They also find that there are others who have 'woken up'. Together they fight to destroy the robot overlords and restore humanity.

Wow, I hope nobody steals that one! lol

Okay, so I've got an idea and a premise. I haven't even thought about character or story to this point. And I'm still not gonna. I'm going to think about ''theme''

I'm getting a very ''underground, let's stick it to The Man'' vibe from this premise. We are all controlled in our lives by outside forces - laws, customs, convention. We should be free to make our own heaven or hell stripped back to the bare bones of good versus evil.

Heaven and Hell? Good versus evil? Mmmmmmm? Very west coast pseudo religious? So what if our protag was a messiah like character? An unwilling messiah who over the course is forced to accept his destiny. Yeah, that's good. That's a great sub-plot and character arc rolled into one.

What about the antag? I don't think I want a huge super robot, the concept is so big I want to reduce the antag to something recognisible and identifiable. So let's see - it has human like form but is pretty well invincible. Ahhhhh- except to our protag when he finally accepts his destiny as the chosen one. Yeah baby! - on a roll now.

Etc, etc etc............. refining and refining until character and story come together.

See, only now am I thinking about character and story. Not plot. Story. And pretty much at the same time. But before I got anywhere near character and story I needed idea and premise. The bread in the sandwich.


Anonymous said...

Dave, you have an amazing ability to make what seemed complicated actually seem quite simple!

Thanks a million for the posts. I find them a massive help.


English Dave said...

Thanks J.J. Maybe it's because I am very simple! lol

Phill Barron said...

"We all think we are living our normal lives, but it's all an illusion created by robot overlords."

Robot overlord - that's got to be halfway towards being a character. You've given it a gender (lord, not lady), a species (none), a job (overlord) and ... um ... some other stuff. Antennaes, flashing lights maybe?

If flashing lights don't make a character, I don't know what does.

English Dave said...

lol phil I thought about Robot Overladies but that was an entirely different genre

Anonymous said...

''Dave, you have an amazing ability to make what seemed complicated actually seem quite simple!''

I just got my notes back from Dave. He effing nailed it. What was wrong and how to fix it. None of your poncey guru speak neither.
Cheers Dave, I could have done with you six months ago.


wcdixon said...

Not very simple...very good.

Nice one centaurian.

Good Dog said...

Oh, perfect timing. Just starting something and that's exactly what I need to hear. I think this'll be another pint I owe you.

English Dave said...

Thanks Ken, but that was my guru speal lol

Will - very kind.

GD - Good luck, starting something new always feels to me a bit like arriving at Everest base camp in shorts and sandals.