Author. SysAdmin. Geek. Dad.

Developing Ideas [WE Master Class]

Alright, I’ve come up some ideas from yesterday's writing exercise, but none of them really point to a good story. So now what? How about we try developing the ideas deeper; and that is what today’s Writing Excuse Master Class lesson was on, developing ideas. Let's start with the lesson insights on developing story ideas.


  1. Look for conflict within the idea. Conflict is the core of a story without it the story would be boring.
  2. Assume the idea/conflict is apart of the world for some time, how does it shape things, how can it be abused, how should it be used? This tactic for digging deeper can really flesh out the world because you just keep asking “why” and “what if”. Plus it also makes it feel more real since asking why enough times you’ll end up with subtle details that just the idea itself wouldn’t have detailed.
  3. Find a person who can be directly impacted by the conflict and put them in the middle of it (not observing). Authors are mean people. Their whole purpose is to find problems and then make people suffer through it for our entertainment… 😈
  4. What are some less obvious conflicts that can come from the idea (avoid the really obvious answer)? People distrust what comes too easy (this is why Jar-Jar is so hated–I believe) so make the conflict less obvious in addition to the solution.
  5. Find a problem that you can’t immediately solve. If you can’t immediately solve it, then it’s probably not obvious and likely means you’ve successfully gone deep enough.
  6. Keep it simple. The more convoluted an idea is the less people will accept it.
  7. Brainstorm different story ideas from the conflict. I thought this was interesting: come up with an idea, from that idea find a conflict, push pass that for a less obvious conflict, then come up with more story ideas with the new conflict.

Writing Exercise

This exercise builds on the previous exercise by taking the five ideas and developing them further.

  1. Take two ideas and combine into one.
  2. Take one idea and change the implied genre.
  3. Take one idea and swap the ages and genders of all characters.
  4. Take one idea where a choice is made, and have someone make the opposite choice.

And here is what I came up with.

Take two ideas and combine into one.

  • Time travel/Mandela effect + speedy aliens from TRAPPIST-1
  • Aliens from TRAPPIST-1 detects Earth focusing our attention on them and to avoid a possible conflict (they’ve been watching us), they travel to Earth faster than we could get to them, and then while in orbit, goes back in time and erases all records of finding TRAPPIST-1 and replaces it with a different inhabitable galaxy near by. The science community collectively scratches their heads because they remember finding a habitat planets in TRAPPIST-1 but everything says nothing good is there, including their own notes.

Take one idea and change the implied genre.

  • Everlasting energy (originally fantasy->steampunk)
  • Murder mystery: A scientist discovers a way to generate endless energy that can be scaled down to power very small things and scaled up to power large things. The scientist is very vocal about how close he is to finding the answer on the Internet when one day he stopped responding to requests online about his progress. A week after the scientist disappears a detective is brought in find him and finds a whole lot more in addition to the dead scientist.

Take one idea and swap the ages and/or genders of all characters.

  • Hypnotizing music
  • A young and socially awkward girl joins a youth choir. The young girl seems stand offish and doesn’t really talk to people but becomes the star of the show when she sings with the choir. What isn’t realized at first is whenever any child that hears the choir music becomes mesmerized and starts doing whatever the lyrics say, much to the dismay of all the adults near by. But when the song ends, the kids stop and don’t remember doing anything.

Take one idea where a choice is made, and have someone make the opposite choice.

  • Everyone is a stereotype
  • I’m struggling on this one. Originally I thought of a character deciding to rebel against the imposed stereotype and fighting the system. But to make the opposite choice is to accept and live in the system… Maybe they choose to evangelize it, but if everyone is already doing it then who else is left to convert? So ¯\_()_/¯

So what idea do you like best? Which one should I keep workshopping through out this course? Leave your ideas in the comments.


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