Concept vs. Story
When I first started out, I would often keep a list of awesome story ideas that I planned to write in the future. These included super cool things like alien crash landings, vampire office dramas and yetis on skis. In retrospect I realize that these were all concepts, not stories. Yetis on skis are cool, but they’re not enough to build a story. What do the yetis want more than anything in the world? What obstacle is stopping them from getting it? What emotional catharsis will they experience in the end? Those are the ingredients that make up a good story. The yetis and middle management vampires are just window dressing.
Plotting With Emotion in Mind
Nowadays, when I’m planning a new story, I start with the moment of emotional catharsis and work back from there. Everything I write will be building to this one pivotal moment, so it's a logical jumping off point.
I begin by asking myself how I want the reader to feel at the end of the story. Will they come away with the deep sadness that accompanies losing a loved one, mixed with a sense of peace and renewed understanding that sometimes Death comes to us as a friend? Or will it be something completely different? Starting with this emotion in mind can help focus and intensify your plot, so you emphasize only the points that build naturally to this feeling.
Pick a list of your favorite books and write down the emotional takeaway. It might be a feeling, a new understanding or a moment of catharsis resulting from overcoming an obstacle. Whatever it is, write them all out and use them as inspiration the next time you’re compiling future story ideas.
A Little About Me
I am the author of Skeleton Tree, a middle grade novel coming out with Scholastic Press in September 2017. I'm a fan of whimsy, British mysteries and reading books to my dog (she's partial to Roald Dahl, in case you were wondering). I'm super excited to write for Middle Grade Minded and to share the love of middle grade literature with the world.