Friday, August 26, 2016

Building a Story

Do you ever hold a glimmering story idea in your hand, but are clueless about where to take it next? You feel like you’re on the verge of an exciting journey, but without a map all you have is that idea and a lot of anxious questions.

I found myself in that position just a couple of weeks ago, completely at a standstill as I wracked my brain for how this seed of inspiration could blossom into a worthwhile novella. Now I have a cast of major characters, a rough plot outline, a meaningful theme, and a few beginning pages of actual, live written words. And I’m very, very excited about writing it to the end.

Nevertheless, I know that when the time comes for another story, I’ll be anxiously wondering if I can actually take that new idea somewhere or not. So, to help, I came up with a list of ways that may help me and you develop as great a story as we’re capable of.

What you can do to grow a story from seedling to tree:
  • Add an interesting character or two. Since people come with their own stories, you might develop a character who will add the missing piece to the story as a whole.
  • Ask yourself: What if? Come up with an impossible situation and find a believable way your characters can get out of it. Readers will be hooked.
  • Research your setting. A fact you didn’t know before may provide just the incident you need to develop a fuller plot.
  • Explore a theme. Ponder what your story will mean to readers. If you want to gently teach about evangelism or forgiveness, for example, think of situations that would best portray them.
  • Include a physical object that can have meaning or symbolism. This one was an important choice for me in my most recent story. A significant object can give characters something to pursue or provide a connection to other characters.
  • Think of the plots of stories you love. What stories inspire you? Is there a way you can borrow some elements and change them so your story is still unique?
  • Pay attention to real life. Is there a compelling situation in real life that goes with your story idea?
  • Do the unexpected. Let your brain meander freely and see if you can create something that has hardly ever been done before. Or, ask yourself what readers would expect to be the outcome of your story idea so far and look for unpredictable ways to add twists.
  • Figure out what would challenge your protagonist the most. A story isn’t a story without conflict, so inject a character or situation that bothers or endangers your protagonist to the utmost.

What suggestions do you have for building a story and developing a plot?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copyeditor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog


  1. Great post, Kelsey! Thank you for sharing!!

  2. A very thought-provoking post, Kelsey! I was just thinking a couple weeks ago about the "What If" question on a story I rewrote. I was pondering how I could make it even better by thinking to myself: "What would really enhance this story? Something the readers wouldn't see coming?" Thankfully, I believe I've come up with a few ideas and hopefully they'll work out well. :)

    Thank you for posting!


    1. Ooh, thanks for sharing, Bekah! I hope your ideas will work out well for your story.
      Thank you!

  3. This is a great post!! Thank you for the inspiration!


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