Idea to story

Ideas are not stories. They can provide the seed of a story, but they are not stories in and of themselves. This is one of the most important things a new writer has to realize. There three essential elements to a story: plot, setting, and character. Your idea is often one of these, or even part of one, but its rarely more than that. Regardless of which one it is, you still have to come up with the others. My ideas are usually settings, and I build from there. Here’s an idea that I expanded earlier today so you can see how I do it.


I’m currently relistening to The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Near the beginning, there is this poem.


On his first hand he wore rings of stone,
Iron, Amber, Wood and Bone.
There were rings unseen on his second hand,
One blood in a flowing band,
One was air all whisper thin,
And the ring of ice had a flaw within.
Full faintly shone the ring of flame,
And the final ring was without name.

This spawn an idea in me about sentient rings. My first thought was that if a person put those on, they would be possessed by the consciousness within, but that seemed too simple, so I expanded on it. It becomes a battle of will. If the ring wings, it gets control of your body. If you win, you gain access to all the knowledge, and possibly power, the ring has. There could also be rings who don’t believe in taking over a host. Perhaps they prefer an intermingling, a more symbiotic relationship. In the long run, this may actually be better as it allows the ring to learn not just from its own experiences by from their hosts as well.

Okay, that gives me the bare bones of a world, but it’s not a story. It’s an interesting setting, but nothing more. The question I naturally ask myself is what kind of story can best arise from this world. Naturally, the focus is on the rings, so I’m going to expand on that. If the rings know that they’re eventually going to need replacement hosts every couple of decades, they might well plan for that. They would probably keep human slaves or servants. They might also set themselves up as beings to be worshipped so that a person could see giving themselves to a ring as an honor. The ring people might gather together and form family of a sort. It wouldn’t be that different from the nobility that you find in many stories. That fleshes them out the setting a little bit, so let’s wander over to the slaves.

These slaves would be well taken care of, but probably deliberately kept ignorant. The idea would be to have a ready selection so that the ring can pick a new host without having to worry about how strong of will that person is. This naturally leads to the protagonist being a slave, one who dares to question. His obvious goal is to be free. How he decides he wants freedom isn’t really an issue at this point. I can figure that out later. The important thing is now a protagonist has something to work toward. We have the beginning of a plot. The antagonist could be one of a few people. It could be the slave master, the owner, or someone in the owner’s “family” who is ready to pick new host. As far as important characters go, that only leaves the guide. The guide is someone who has been there before. He has walked the same paths as the protagonist. Let’s make the guide a former ring person, one who has lost a hand. This might make him unable to be a host anymore, if the rings must be put on a specific finger, or the ring might have discarded him, having a lot of much more capable host. That gives us characters

So that’s it. We have a protagonist. We have a goal for the protagonist to work for, and we have the two other major characters. Setting, plot, and characters. There are still a lot of unanswered questions. Why isn’t the protagonist as slavishly loyal as the rest of slaves are, the ones who wouldn’t dream of freedom? Why, if the guide was discarded, was he kept alive? Can a person where more than one ring? Is the entire world/kingdom ruled by the ring people or is just this small area. Is it known that the rings control people, or is it a secret? How are the ring people regarded? There are a hundred other questions that still need to be answered, but those are just details. I have the bare bones of a story and I can fill out the details in the way that best serves that story. Will I actually write it? Maybe. My writing schedule is pretty full this year, but Pharim War will be finishing next year, and the entire Nylean Chronicles will be released by November. I have Ice Lords coming up, but I dislike working in only one world at a time, so I’ll need another project soon. Maybe this is the one.


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