Ideas: beginnings, middles, ends

My hens eating the good stuff.

My hens eating the good stuff.

Somehow recently I managed to subscribe by email to a blog by best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins. He had a great post called Secrets to Writing a Captivating Ending, which you can read here:

It really started me to thinking. Recently I got some praise from my therapist on all the original and interesting story ideas I have. I knew that was nothing to get excited about because none has ever lead to a finished novel as they were meant to.

Really, ideas are nothing. Everybody has them. Some people have only commonplace ideas— but then, many great works of literature have simple, common ideas like ‘boy meets girl’ at their core. Or sometimes, ‘boy meets vampire’.

It’s the follow-through that matters. And for that you need more than just a story idea— a beginning, a starting situation, a conflicted character— you need something that leads to an ending.

How do you handle a story idea? I usually toss it around in my head a bit and then mostly I write down the story idea. Sometimes I write a beginning for the story instead.

This is how my story idea-writing-down might look:

There are these aliens, see, and they come to Earth right at the start of World War 2. Yeah, I know, Harry Turtledove did that. But Turtledove’s aliens were conservative aliens. My aliens are worse. They are LIBERALS (progressives) and they really, really like the concept of eugenics.

They are going to get along with Hitler, right? Only which Hitler? Because, you see, in my story Hitler has multiple personality disorder. His alters are Angry Hitler, Affable Hitler, and Little Lost Boy Hitler. Angry Hitler makes an alliance with the aliens— but then the aliens inadvertently weaken Angry Hitler and put Little Lost Boy Hitler in a position of power.

As you can see, my story writing ideas mostly touch on things that happen at the beginning. I need to figure out what happens at the end. Even if it turns out to be a trilogy, I need to know what somewhat conclusive things happen at the end of Book One.

So, when I write down my various story ideas in my little blank book with Spiderman on the cover, I’m not just going to write down beginning ideas, but ideas for the ending. Because Jerry B. Jenkins says so. And he’s a good writer, even if he is a heretic.

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