Ask questions about ideas
Interrogate ideas for stories and characters with casual questioning.
One fundamental question is “What could go wrong?”, within the category of “What could result?”.
Exaggeration should be embraced in this kind of story exploration. Insufficient exaggeration is more common than excessive exaggeration.
Try to identify an assumption and twist it. A twist can sometimes be achieved by slightly excessive exaggeration (which is why it’s good to explore the exaggerated threads more than feels comfortable).
General idea interrogation questions:
- “What could go wrong?”
- “Who suffers the most in this situation?”
- “What made this happen?”
- “What is the purpose of this?”
- “What is the result of this?”
Some additions distilled from later content:
- “How is this the opposite of the truth?”
- “Who believes the opposite of this?”
- “How does this not go far enough?”
- “Who believes this doesn’t go far enough?”
The list seems to get a bit weaker after “What could go wrong?” and “Who suffers?”. Those seem like more unusual and useful questions than the rest, which are too generic.
Interrogation to kill clichés
Idea of a “cliché shelf”, and public vs private clichés that are on the shelf.
Ideas are cheap and available everywhere. Pay attention and you will have the problem of having too many ideas, not to few.
Remember that things that seem ordinary or obvious to you will be interesting to other people (and vice versa, surely). Further to that, the way you describe something that might have been ordinary can make it interesting anyway.
Be careful copying too directly from real life
Real life events can need justification in the story that is easy for you to not notice, as the real-life justification is obvious to you.
Remember that plausibility is about perceived likelihood, not actual likelihood.
Real life can provide seeds as starting points that need to be developed and combined independently.
This section seems kind of obvious, ironically.
Series: Characters & Viewpoint
- Notes on Orson Scott Card's "Characters & Viewpoint", 01
- Notes on Orson Scott Card's "Characters & Viewpoint", 02 (this page)