Jun 01 2009

How to Turn Jumbled Thoughts into a Coherent Story

Published by at 11:53 pm under Writing Articles

Figure out what your story’s central question is.  For example, Spiderman’s central question is “can a regular teen be a superhero without giving up the people and values that matter to him?” The central question of the Superhero Nation comic book is “what sort of changes would a regular accountant have to make to survive as a superhero?”

Once you know what the central question is, it’s easier to decide which ideas are relevant. Ideally, everything– the villain’s plot, the side-characters, the side-plots– somehow relate to the central question. For example, pretty much everything Spiderman does endangers his family and makes it really hard to enjoy a normal life. The plot frequently puts him in morally difficult situations to test his values. Does he kill the man that killed Uncle Ben? Does he save Mary Jane or a bus full of kids?

It’s easy to get discouraged because you have a lot of ideas that don’t seem relevant. However, please consider whether they could be relevant. For example, let’s say you have a cool idea for a romantic sideplot. Make it relevant to the central question. For example, the Spiderman movies made Mary Jane relevant by using her to create moral dilemmas. Is it possible for him to keep seeing Mary Jane and work as Spiderman? Should he tell her? How can he keep her safe?

I’d also recommend making sure that the villain’s plot is relevant to the central question. In the first Spiderman movie, the climactic battle between the Green Goblin and Spiderman shows that Spiderman can be a superhero without compromising his values. Spiderman manages to beat the Goblin without killing him. The Goblin dies only because of his flawed morals. (He tries to kill Spiderman and ends up offing himself instead).

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “How to Turn Jumbled Thoughts into a Coherent Story”

  1. Luna Jamniaon 02 Jun 2009 at 12:20 pm

    This is interesting, because I just got a jumbled-thought-maybe-idea yesterday. ^^ Three tries and still no coherent-ness/real story/plot/names. Anyhow, great timing on this article though.

  2. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 02 Jun 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Most of my ideas start out like this.

    Not too long ago, I thought: “Vampires. Fantasy creatures. Mages. Bodyguards. Aha! In a world of dangerous fantasy creatures where vampires are most feared, a mage who acts as a bodyguard to a teen girl is secretly a vampire! Vampire bites can cause pregnancy, so all newborns are checked at birth to ensure they’re not one, but the doctor was a childhood friend of his mother, who wanted to keep him. The girl he guards was orphaned by vampires, too. Only his best friend knows his secret, but only because he saw him feeding on a traveler. Damn, this is a good idea. I should write it down!”

    So I did. Haha. I suppose the question would be “Can a vampire act as a bodyguard to a girl who hates his species, while hiding it from almost everyone?”

    Of course, I’d follow the rules I put for vampires on the Twilight page:

    Vampires must have blood. Human blood.
    They must be weakened by traditional means, or still remain tied to them. Eg, if a vampire does not burst into flames in the sun, he must get sunstroke or get extremely bad sunburn. They must either be unable to cross running water or have a paralysing fear of it.
    There must be more telltale ways to discover vampirism, like scars on their backs if they have wings or heaps of extra iron in their blood.
    No sparkles.

  3. Tomon 03 Jun 2009 at 5:23 am

    Actually considering how in Dracula vampires did not get hurt by sunlight you could probably get away with removing the sunlight clause. Or do what Dracula did and make it so vampiric powers don’t work during the day.

  4. Asayaon 05 Jun 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Or you could do it like Blade and the vampire will have his powers at any point in time.

    Speaking of jumbled ideas and coherent stories, lately I’ve found that it works best to just write down whatever ideas you have for the story and then shave it down into the form you want it to be.

  5. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 21 Jun 2009 at 5:39 am

    I had another random idea not too long ago. I want to write something about Spring Heeled Jack, a mysterious person (or creature) that roamed Victorian London.

    I’ll probably set it in modern times, because my last efforts to set a story in Victorian times failed, badly. Haha.

  6. B. Macon 21 Jun 2009 at 7:50 am

    Since my comic spends a lot of time in New York City, I plan to use the Jersey Devil as a recurring boogeyman that is often mentioned but rarely seen (like the title character in Waiting for Godot or perhaps Dracula in Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

  7. Holliequon 21 Jun 2009 at 8:51 am

    The second Skulduggery Pleasant book used Spring-Heeled Jack as a minor villain turned anti-hero. He got caught by one of the main characters, sprung out of gaol by one of the villains, was tricked and lied to by said villain, decided to get villain back, saved the protagonist from drowning/vampires, only to find that by doing so he’d helped the person who put him in prison. He was a bit put-out by that.

    Of course, like most Skulduggery Pleasant villains, he was affably evil anyway.

    Um . . . I’m not sure what I was trying to say with this post. Sorry.

  8. HUsheron 21 Jun 2009 at 11:58 am

    Ah, many *many* thanks for this article. Seriously, I have this story idea floating about in my head, but all attempts to plan it in a very traditional way (work out protagonists, create a plot) have sent said idea running for the horizon with its tail between its legs. I’d ask for help but it’s so vague that it’d just sound weird. (Um. Well. Everyone talks formal. And there’s angels.)
    (No, no it’s not quite that bad, xD.)
    Once again, thanks for the advice.

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