Every story can be boiled down to a simplistic means. Some claim that this is a really small amount of words. Let’s discuss what I think in the Storytelling Specter.
I’ve been told that a story is essentially “someone does a thing.” I can agree with that. The source of that information also says that the story, any story, can be boiled down to about 500 words. If you’re wondering, that’s about the length of each of my columns here on the Emerald Specter website. I hold a different view, because I’d like my story to have a little more nuance.
About two months ago, I started thinking about all the “novels I’d like to write,” because I’ve actually got a list of them. These are normally listed as first books of a series, with a couple being one offs, but overall, they are a list of stories that I’ve been wanting to tell. Well, rather than wait to make these into novels or whatever, I’m going to start writing them. There’s a little problem with that, though.
I’ve got a personal problem. I like to start things but I have a really hard time finishing them. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (coming up this November, I’ll try to jump in again) and only once have I completed the event AND been satisfied with what I wrote… for the most part. The goal of NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, though, far shy of the 100,000 words that most people say a novel needs to be in length. Well, here’s where my “let’s just write this stuff” comes out, combined with boiling down the story into a “someone does a thing.”
Instead of trying to boil my stories down into a 500 word synopsis, which is what I think they’d boil down to, I have created a personal “pilot” program. I’m writing every novel idea that I have in a 3,000 word story. The WHOLE story, and if that story is intended as a jumping off point for a series, then the solid foundation of what the first story would end up looking like. I’ve outlined a list of about 13 starting ideas that I’ve placed into this pilot program and if the story turns out in a satisfactory manner, then that story will be expanded upon into more something resembling a 100,000 word story.
Interested in knowing how satisfactory or how far I’ve gotten? As I write this, I have three 3,000 word “pilots” completed and I like them all. I will have written at least two more by the time this article drops, meaning that I’m almost halfway through my initial 13 ideas. I think that even if one or two of those don’t turn out, or hell, if six of them don’t turn out, I think that I have a nice foundation to build on. Now I get to be a little cryptic.
One story is solidly a series, with the 3,000 just being the “jump off point.” One story is the entire “first season” of a story. The third one is the gist of the story I’ve been working on as a series and I realize that I’ve been telling the wrong story with that… until I wrote the 3,000 words. Now I know what I need to write. Success!
I suggest you do the same thing with your ideas. If 3,000 isn’t enough, maybe your story isn’t what you thought it was and you need to revise the whole thing. Look at me, I discovered that with one of my ideas and I’m guessing the idea I write in two hours from now will end up that way, too.