Writing Lesson 1 – What’s the Big Idea?

Have you ever heard of the shortest stories never written?

A Woodcutter’s Life by Tim Burr

Pirate Gold by Barry D. Treasure

Snakes in Tall Grass by Leva Malone

My Struggle with Insomnia by Anita Knapp

Pitfalls of Procrastination by Ida Dunmore

You get the idea…once you get past the title, there’s not much to say.

How do you come up with ideas for a story worth writing? One people would enjoy reading? One that might even make you famous?

Plotting with Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

The keys to a story readers can’t put down are goal, motivation, and conflict.

A goal is something you want—something you want so badly it feels like a hunger, and not just an “I could go for a pizza” sort of snack-y feeling. A real craving that gnaws at you. Something that will have serious consequences if you don’t get it.

Your motivation is the reason you want it. What’s at stake? Life? Liberty? Your future happiness? The continuation of the universe as we know it?

Conflict is what you’re up against. Why you may not get what you want. The almost insurmountable odds that you’re not going to be able to pull this off.

If you can give the characters in your story some serious goals, motivations that drive them, and conflicts to challenge their odds of ever living happily ever after, you’ve got the beginnings of a story of consequence that deserves to be written.

Exercise 1:

  • Think about your favorite books and movies. Try to identify the goal, motivation, and conflicts of the main character. (There may be several.) Use this sentence to help you:

          (Character) wants (goal) because (motivation), but (conflict).

  • Start lists of big ideas for goals, motivations, and conflicts. Some may be quirky, and others may be almost universal. Don’t limit your imagination at this point. Then pick one of each at random and see what story ideas you come up with.
About Lynn Dean

Lynn Dean dictated her first story before she could write and continued to write stories, illustrate them, and bind them into books throughout childhood. As a homeschooling mom, she enjoyed passing a love for writing to her own children and ten years of co-op students.

Read more about Lynn.

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