You’re at a party and you see a small crowd gathered around a friend of yours. He or she is holding the attention of the group and you think to yourself,
“Must be a good story.”
What is a good story, the kind that holds an audience enthralled in the same way a novel holds a reader for three or four hundred pages? Do you have an idea worthy of turning into that kind of story, the kind that makes an idea into a novel?
If you say, “I have an idea for a novel,” look at these three statements and see if your evidence stands up:
- Your idea is original
You have passed the litmus test of Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes&Noble and good old Google when you search the bare storyline of your novel.
Fan Fiction, homage, countless un-human creatures reimagined and versions of myths and fairy tales already out there not withstanding, if you don’t see anything exactly like your story then it’s safe to say you have something original.
And to be perfectly honest, even if it has been done, nothing says a writer can’t rewrite a classic with a different flavor. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith; Manga Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliette by Richard Appignanesi; and my personal favorite, Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina all prove you can put your own new twist to an old idea.
- You have more than a hook
Let’s go back to the party analogy: Your friend draws a crowd with a great pitch and starts to tell the “story” behind it. Hooks are the compelling lead in for many ideas when asked:
“What’s your story about?”
The real test for any idea is to turn the idea into a substantive throughline that holds up over three hundred pages. You might not find the word “throughline” in a dictionary. But screenwriters use it because without a thread that carries a story through a film, there is no film—just a series of random shots or scenes that don’t link to each other. In other words there is no story.
Same thing with a novel.
You wouldn’t pour a drink into a napkin— you need a glass. An idea needs a glass—a premise—that glues the idea to every scene and carries the intent of the writer and the motivation of the character throughout the story and into the climax and resolution.
- Your character is important beyond the story
This one is easy. First ask yourself how well do you know your main character? Would that character merit the thoughts and concerns of a reader during the hours the book is closed?
Will a reader bond with your character in the same way you bonded with a character in a novel you read?
Your character has to pull a reader through page after page after page because the reader wants to find out what happens and because the reader is invested in your character.
Because your character is important to the reader beyond the story.
J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Susan Collins and George R.R. Martin wrote about people who share our children’s lives as well as our own. And way way before them we had The Brothers Grimm whose characters repeat over and over in literature because they are so rooted in our very psyche.
An original story with a sure-footed premise and an empathic character that bonds with a reader is headed for success. Except for that final hurdle that faces all writers with a really good idea for a novel:
No matter how good your idea is for a novel you will never know if it’s a bestseller unless you finish it.
Write to “THE END.”
Don’t give up.
Need some help finishing your novel and you are in the Atlanta area? Check out our next 60 Scenes ONE-DAY Workshop on December 10th.
Register here –> www.60scenes.com
It’s the last one of 2016 so give yourself a present and finish your novel this year. “If you can write 60 scenes you can write a novel.” We can show you how.