If you missed my Monday post, I'm going to copy and paste the story description below. If you've already read the story description, you can skip down to more reasons why the story idea was small.
The dandelion story is about a girl named Paige who had spent all her life living as a tomboy. When Paige is a junior (I think) she moves halfway across the country, leaving behind a close group of friends, and a very, very serious boyfriend. Who’s so ticked with her for moving, he refuses to talk to her after she tells him she’s leaving. (I’ve already told you I had some issues with character believability…) So Paige moves to her new home in suburban St. Louis, where she completely transforms herself. She doesn’t keep in touch with any of her old friends, she becomes a complete girly-girl, and even dates a new guy. Then for some reason I can’t remember, Paige’s family gets sent back to her original home a year later.
Here are some reasons why the story idea wound up being too small:
I was writing about myself.
I mean, not really, because it wasn't something I'd done, but in my head, Paige was me and she was fulfilling one of my life fantasies, which was to move away, become fabulous and beautiful, then return home and have everyone be shocked by who I really was. (One of the most crushing moments of my life was when my husband and I moved back to KC after living in Florida for 2 1/2 years, and a woman at church said, "Well, Stephanie, you look exactly like you did!")
I hadn't given Paige thoughts or preferences of her own because I didn't realize she needed them. I grew as a writer when I stopped basing characters on myself.
I was short on life experience.
A brilliant member of our community mentioned this last Friday, that they feel like they need more life experience before they can make much progress novel-wise. The same was true for me, but I wasn't smart enough to realize it. I needed to mature, to broaden my view of the world. And that's okay.
I hadn't read very much.
I had read a lot of stuff for school, which was great and necessary, but I wasn't reading many current releases. Which meant I didn't know what else was out there. Which meant I didn't know if my idea was fresh or not.
I didn't know how to ask "Why?" or "What if...?"
Those two questions are key to how I currently expand plots and deepen characterization. Why does her boyfriend stop talking to her? What's in his past that leads him to behaving that way? What if he did talk to her between finding out she was moving and the truck pulling away; what would the story look like then? How would she react differently during her time in St. Louis? Why does she transform herself during her time away? Did she previously think there was something wrong with who she was? What triggered that behavior?
And so forth. In my early writing days, I was under the false impression that ideas should just "come to me." I didn't think I should have to work for them. BIG IDEAS TAKE WORK. Stephen King likens creating a story to unearthing a fossil. You have to dig for it, work for it.
How do you "unearth" your ideas? Is it by writing a couple scenes? Talking to friends? Taking walks? Making a plot spreadsheet?
And don't forget - writing prompt entries are due today!