Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Your BIG idea

by Suzanne Cordatos

Move over, Katniss. Step aside, Harry Potter. I’ve got an idea for the next great series complete with beloved characters and breath-holding action sure to spawn a trilogy of movies and scads of marketing paraphernalia—or do I? Is my idea BIG enough?

Many writers make New Years' resolutions to write more, so an efficient use of one's time would be to analyze an idea thoughtfully before committing months (and years) to writing it out in the first place. Here’s how to tell if an idea is series-worthy:

Passion for the Project
First and foremost, how passionate are you? A series of books takes a steady commitment of time and energy. At a conference, a series writer once expressed the fond desire to put her cast of characters on an island and blow it up; she was tired of writing the same characters, over and over!

Cast of Characters
Are your characters multi-dimensional? Is Villain purely bad—or have you given Villain a believable back story to explore the genesis of their evil actions? Is Hero reluctant at first? Have you given Hero the space and means in which to grow into the role? Have you populated your cast with interesting characters to interact with Hero and Villain in a variety of settings/plots?

Is your idea conducive to world-building? Where do your characters live and work? What do they eat? What do they do for fun? What animals/creatures exist in this world? Both fantasy and realistic stories require world-building for a believable backdrop that gives elbow room for Hero and Villain to explore.

Brainstorm story ideas quickly. Make a list. Include silly, random ideas:
  •   Hero and Villain butt heads on a mountaintop, skiing Bond-style in a chase that has a steamy, wet end in a ski lodge Jacuzzi.
  • Villain sneaks behind Hero onto a rocket headed for the international space station which must be diverted from an impending disaster before oxygen runs out. 
  • Hero discovers his love interest is related to Villain in an unexpected way, complicating what Hero thought would make an easy demise for Villain.
  • Villain finds and destroys the object Hero seeks.

Does your list stop cold? Could you go on and on? With a small list—or with a story focused more on a relationship between a limited cast—perhaps the idea is best served by a short story or novella. If your story ideas seem boundless at the brainstorm stage, perhaps you have the kernel of a good series.

How do you determine what form a new idea should take? Novel? Short story? Article? Series? 


  1. Most of my ideas tend to be short story ideas--one time, small, slice-of-life type stories. I wrote a short story once, though, and fell in love with my MC. I found myself writing other stories about him. I didn't set out to write a chapter book, but found that I had more to say about that character beyond that first short story.

    1. Falling in love with your main character is a great indication you could write a series starring that character, or delve into a big, wonderful novel in which he/she can have room to stretch their legs. Go for it, Debbie!

  2. Great post--again! Thanks for the practical advice!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Sonja! Can't wait until the world gets to know YOUR big ideas that will fly into the world hopefully later this year with Sophie Topfeather!

  3. You make some very good points, Suzanne. Something to think about when considering writing a sequel. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Beverly! I read a writing book over the holidays called "Inside the Room" about TV screenwriting. Lots of good ideas that can transfer from TV entertainment over to series book writing. Good luck with your writing in 2014!

  4. Great starting point idea! I love the brainstorming tip. I usually start a story with a novel in mind, but I need to go back and look at some of the writing I started, couldn't get enough umph and tossed it on the discard pile. Maybe one of those could be reworked into a short story.

    Thanks for the useful post!

  5. Lots of your ideas have fun "umph" and don't deserve the bin. A great idea for non-fiction writing is to re-work the same ideas with slightly different angles to be appropriate for a variety of publications with different audiences. For novels, I tend to wallow in them for years when a short story might have done the job and taken a lot less time! Thanks for commenting, Kristi!