This is a continuation of “Brainstorming Your Idea.”
So now you have a basic outline for your story, enough so that you can pitch the idea to others and you’re starting to get excited for your new creation. On the other hand however, you don’t have nearly enough to begin writing your first chapter. All you know is what kind of story you want to tell and a few key points about the journey you want to take your readers on. Now it’s time to flesh things out a little.
In “Brainstorming Your Idea,” I did an impromptu brainstorming session of my own and I’m going to be working with that again today. So with that brainstorm session I came up with the following story pitch:
“A medieval fantasy about a boy named Blake who joins a circle of holy knights devoted to ridding the world of Esmiral of all the unnatural wild beasts that were created by an evil dark wizard long ago. These creatures prey on the unprotected villages and travelers they come across and feed upon their flesh. Only the magical blades of these knights can slay them.”
Now there’s a lot of things written there that are left unexplained which is a good thing (for a pitch) but no matter what you write you’re going to need to answer the questions posed by your pitch sooner or later. Otherwise, it won’t be long until readers just get confused and bored of reading.
The amount of preparation needed to avoid that will vary depending on the style of story and the writer themselves but there are several questions you should remember to ask yourself when working out the finer details of what you’re writing.
What’s Relevant To My Story
Now if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction then I’m sure you get as excited I do at the prospect of building wonderful and exotic new worlds to base your stories in. As a result, you can find yourself spending hours just writing about the many aspects that make up your world, especially those aspects that separate it so clearly from the world we live in.
When you get an idea in your mind it’s natural to want to fully cultivate it and understand everything about it. I feel naturally inclined to write about the magic of Esmiral that created these “unnatural wild beasts” I’ve included in my pitch. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time for me writing down the fictional physics of magic for a story.
However, a time comes when you’re building a world that you need to ask yourself:
“Will this have any relevance in the story itself?”
A portion of it might, sure. So why would you write pages and pages of information that won’t be relevant?
I can’t imagine why Blake and the circle of knights he joins would know the ins and outs of actually creating the beasts they hunt and if they were created by a “dark wizard long ago,” then it’s safe to say that the knowledge on how it was done is either long forgotten or a closely kept secret.
In fact, I think I could confidently say that magic will be poorly explained in this story altogether. These “holy swords” that the knights use are the only things that can kill the beasts so they’re clearly not handing out holy swords to just anyone. Magic and magical items are going to be a rarity in the world of Esmiral and that will be relevant information in my story.
There should still be hints of magic in the world and the knights should still have knowledge on how to combat against it but that knowledge will be limited. Therefore, the knowledge supplied to the reader will be limited too. With that logic I have just saved myself from writing several pages of unnecessary text.
When preparing your story you should always be aware of what information will be relevant to the continuation of your story. If you include walls of text containing information that doesn’t affect the progression of your story then chances are readers will either skim straight past it or just put the book down.
That’s not to say that your story should be completely streamlined though! Some information needs to be shared for readers to understand your world which brings about the next question:
What Do The Readers NEED To Know?
You may think this is just a different way of asking the same question but hear me out. There are certain things that won’t be relevant to the story but are relevant to a stranger in your fantasy world.
Try to think back to the first time you went on a holiday abroad; A new country that you’ve never experienced before. The culture could be completely different from what you’ve grown up in or it can have small, subtle differences that are barely noticeable. The language may be different; hell, there could be multiple languages in one country. Everything is new and exciting, right? Well…not all of it is exciting.
You aren’t excited about what they eat and drink there until you’re ready to eat. You don’t give a second thought about the religion unless it affects what you do there, whether it’s a law about what you can wear or you’re just on a tour around a famous religious landmark. You don’t care because they’re not relevant to your experience there.
How many people do you think go on vacation to Benidorm with the knowledge that King James I of Aragon reconquered the region from the Moors in 1245? How many would care? What you write should be dictated with that same logic in mind.
If the sword Blake wields is indeed a holy sword then the reader will want to know what God (or Gods) the sword can be linked to. The reader will want to know some basic information about the religion that adheres to that God but they don’t want to read a brand new bible about it.
Your story should be the tour brochure that makes readers want to visit your world, not the history book that they’re forced to study. Consider these questions carefully and you’ll save yourself a lot of preparation time while coming a step closer to beginning a well planned out story.
This piece on brainstorming has focused mainly on the building of a new world, join me next time where I begin to discuss:
“Story Planning: Building Your Timeline.”