The idea for a story can pop up at the most unexpected places and times. It may be something heard, witnessed, or read. Being a visual person, my main source of ideas comes from the Internet, usually while researching something else. When that happens I save the information/picture, usually attaching it to a memo with a quick synopsis of what came to mind at the time. In this case, a Facebook contact posted this picture knowing that much of my writing focuses on young adults incorporating teen problems.
I have worked with youth for sixty years as a counselor, police officer, Scouter, church youth leader, and friend. I am well aware of the problems they encounter during the developing years and have alluded to them in several novels and short stories.
I have heard teachers admonish students to write about things they know about. A successful journalist can’t possibly know about everything they prepare for publication. They will conduct research and interviews to answer who, what, when, where, how, and why. That same formula applies to fiction writers, as well. With this in mind, let’s explore how to deal with the “Now What?”
Before putting anything in writing there are a number of things to accomplish. As I plan to write about the above photo, there are questions that need answers.
- What is the primary focus? Family rejection of LGBT youth.
- What do I want to say: 1) Rejection is legally and morally criminal. 2) The value of a true friendship.
- What is the outcome? Using two examples, one is reconciled, one dies.
- What actors (characters) do I want to focus on the situation?)
a. Boy 1, (age 15) his mother (very minor) and minister father (primary).
b. Boy 2, (age 16) his white collar father (mentioned only).
c. A True friend of boy 1 (age 15).
d. A rescuer – a police officer, relative (grandmother, brother, or uncle), true friend’s father, or community volunteer (Youth leader or rescue mission volunteer.) (Primary) To be decided after research. (keep number of actors small
5. Location? Medium-sized city (500,000 pop. that would have resources available to help.)
6. How long of a story? Short story not to exceed 7,500 words.
7. What is the point of view? Third person, limited. (See: https://celtic-publications.com/822-2/)
8. What problems do the boys incur? Adverse weather (rain), street bully/gang, food, shelter, drugs, uncaring businesses, caring businesses trying to help.
a. Coming out stories specifically those rejected by family.
b. Stories of abandoned youth.
c. Stories of rescued youth.
d. Stories of street youth challenges and death.
d. Child endangerment/abandonment laws of the chosen location.
e. Interview with private and government welfare workers.
[Research can take time. Some of my novels have taken six to eight months to research. Short stories take less but don’t get in a hurry and be sloppy. Also, expect research to reveal unexpected information you may want to incorporate.]
As this information comes together, the research will suggest points to cover. During this process, we should begin giving thought to the story arc. You say what? (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramatic-structure)
Very quickly, the basis of a good story is formed around Gustav Freytag’s 5-act dramatic structure. Don’t feel locked into these points especially that this is a short story of no more than 7,500 words. The acts are: 1) Exposition (introduction), 2) Rising action, 3) Climax, 4) falling action, 5) denouement/resolution/revelation/catastrophe. For instance, Act 1 might start at the inciting incident and any pertinent background information dribbled through Act 2.
As the research progresses, I begin giving each primary actor characteristics to make them realistic and relatable. (See a previous post on character development: https://celtic-publications.com/who-are-these-people/)
That pretty well sums up “Now What?” Once having this information it’s time to pull it together and start writing.