Thursday, June 21, 2012

Evaluating a Story Idea

How do you evaluate a story idea for your novel? How do you determine if it will fly? 
As a rule of thumb, if a topic fires your passion, it’s a good idea to pursue a story based on that topic. However, if the topic is only important to you or only familiar to you or only true to you, it doesn’t necessarily make it universal enough to interest readers.
So, how do you know if your topic’s a good idea? Evaluate it on the basis of these questions:
1. Does your topic/idea transport your readers to a new world they can explore? Even if it’s simply an unusual career or a different socio-economic lifestyle, a new world will create interest for your readers to experience. The movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, based on the book These Foolish Things take readers into the chaotic streets of India as you journey with a group of retirees searching for a piece of paradise to live out their golden years.
2. Are your characters active? Do they get up and do something? Characters who sit on their porch and ruminate about life are b-o-r-i-n-g.
3. Does your character have a goal? You need to give your characters a goal, a quest they can journey on or a desperate need that must be met. In Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen runs away to find out about her dead mother.
4. Does your idea have high stakes? The stakes need to be high enough to create enough tension to carry the story. If the biggest stakes are, “Will the electricity stay on long enough to cook dinner?” then your story will fizzle before it gets a chance to sizzle. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s stakes were high. She had to get the witch’s broomstick or she would never get the help from the wizard to return home. Seeking out a wicked witch and stealing her broomstick to ensure a ticket back to Kansas is the ultimate in high stakes. If Dorothy failed, she was doomed to spend the rest of her days in Oz.
So, what about your big idea? Will it fly? Will your story captivate readers?

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