Wednesday, August 22, 2012

8 Indicators a Novel Idea Possesses Staying Power


I’ve admitted to you before how frequently I come up with new story ideas.
But not all seeds have what it takes to root and develop into a beautiful potted plot. I wrote a post about how I whittle my ideas down as a process of testing them to see if they’ll make it over the long haul here.

Today I’m highlighting eight indicators an idea is strong enough to last:
Relevance Factor

Is there something about the theme, subject matter, or main conflict that evokes immediate recognition, feeling, or resonance in our contemporary culture? In the news? A well-known event? Something I’m intrigued to learn more about (a must)?

Head Talk
When characters start playing out conversations in my mind I’m inclined to reach for a pen and start taking notes. This also occurs a little later in the plotting stages and tends to signal to me a loyalty to move ahead. It’s a major score for a writer. Yes, my characters will talk to me.

Plot Twists & Conflict Flourish
Plans for directions the novel could take begin to jut off like streaming estuaries as opposed to dry up like cracks in the desert. Love when this happens!

That First Date Feeling
I reach the point where I’m so fascinated I want to ask a million questions. I must know more.

Wake up Excited
To unravel the story.

Can’t Sleep Excited
To unravel story. Enter pen and paper by my bed for middle of the night jottings.

Depth Potential
Does this idea have the potential to stir up something deep within me? If so, I explore it further. If not, I shut it down.

Off the Charts Empathy
This is one of my favorite stages of writing—when my main character becomes “alive” and I begin to “feel” what she’s feeling. I know a novel has what it takes to stick around if my protagonist is churning this kind of reaction in me.

It seems like not much has staying power these days. Technology changes faster than I can finish this sente… Loyalty is hard to come by. But I’m loyal through and through. I’m also discerning. It pays when I evaluate the stories that are worth my time and energy.

How do you assess whether something has staying power in your life?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

22 comments:

  1. I use many of these same indicators, Wendy! When they start talking, I start listening...and answering them back on occasion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love, love, love it when they start talking.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for this post! Some great points. I can't tell you how many book ideas I have...most of the time I end up just jotting down a one line pitch or a few plot points...then i get back to my current WIP. There are so many of those ideas that I go back to and think, "This is the stupidest idea I've ever had!" LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is fun to go back and look through my ideas. Some are pretty laughably weak. ;-)

      Delete
  3. I think a book I'm writing has staying power in my life when I realize, usually about halfway through, that the character is struggling or dealing with the same thing I'm facing at that time. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, relatable and recognizable characters. Makes perfect sense. I once was editing one of my earlier novels and I smacked myself realizing the issue beneath the issue was something I was all too familiar with.

      Delete
  4. I thought , for a second cuz I was reading so fast, it said "Death potential". Then I thought, quickly, "Oh she likes to kill off her characters too!!"

    AHem. Reason #96 that I'm sure I'm ADD.


    My characters are on a stage in my brain, much like a theatre (yes, I did spell that properly, eh.)And I thought I was alone in the wake up/go to sleep with dialogue pumping through my head!


    In all seriousness, one of the things I realized when I began to write, is that in each of the stories floating in my head, each of the heroines are over 35 and closer to 40. And each has suffered loss. Each wants more than anything to simply live. Hmmm, a pattern we have?
    It frustrates me to no end that many CBA novels have young hawt thangs who are front and centre. (<<eh) Why should the heroine of a well told story not have a wrinkle or aching hip ?


    I hope one day to be the author that woman turn to when they want to read about a woman of a certain age who IS a knock-out, who does make the hero take a second look, who has lived life enough to not be won over by swooning, but a friendship that turns to much more. I want them to say "Oh, I love Jennifer MAjor's books, she gets what it's like to be a woman!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you read Little Bee? I loved her for her scars. Makes her that much more relatable to me.

      Delete
  5. I think I have a story idea that will go the distance when I can't stop thinking about the plot, the characters, the idea. When I have a thirty word hook that sticks in my head and, when I share it with someone, I see the spark of interest in their eyes. I'm wrestling with one right now that I LOVE, I just need to iron out the details.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love watching that spark light up. Ah, to create that! It's gold. Pure gold.

      Delete
  6. Part of my "staying power" is how long the story stays in my head. When I start obsessing over it I know it's here to stay and needs to be written!! I'm writing one now and the problem is, #2 is already forming in my head and those characters are SCREAMING to be heard. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe you were the one who tried to convince me to write a blog post about when all the characters come together--then what? I bounce that around every so often. Those characters can be such obtrusive and persistent folks!

      Delete
  7. Great post, Wendy. I know I'm onto something when the idea grows instead of atrophies. (And a killer title goes a long way too. ;))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm, now you always know who likes brainstorming titles. :D Yep, growing is essential.

      Delete
  8. This is a great list! I think a book has staying power when I'm rooting for the characters or find a piece of myself in what they're struggling with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This will often happen in the process of writing a novel to me. On more than one occasion I've cried while writing a scene.

      Delete
  9. I love it when I wake up excited, ready to interact with the characters. I also love it when I hear them speaking, I know what needs to come next. Sadly I usually hear this when I don't have time to write it down so later I have to do my best to remember what these characters said.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A guest speaker in college cursed me with this. They said that a writing with "staying power" is one that wakes up at 3 a.m. to write the thought down. Less serious writers simply fall back asleep. Convicts me every time.

      Delete
  10. When I can't stop thinking about a story in the long term (not just the day I think of it, I know it's a keeper.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's something electrical that goes on inside when the characters reveal themselves. I adore that stage.

      Delete
  11. Fascinating! My books aren't terribly deep, but I always know I have to finish a story when I fall in love with the characters. If they are funny or charming or flawed in just the right ways, I know it's meant to be. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wendy,

    This is a very hard question for me to answer! And I don't know why?!!! Maybe let's just leave it at this: You've given me a lot to think about. I love my characters and I love their stories - but is that enough to make it possess staying power????

    Thanks for your insight!
    Becky

    ReplyDelete