Last week we talked about place and the types of characters that play well in that sort of story.
Today we’re going to talk about a story built around an idea.
The foundation of an “idea” story is pretty simple. A problem is presented at the beginning, the main character or characters devise a plan and the reader is completed to continue reading to find out how they solve it. Something inevitably goes wrong, but the story isn’t over until the problem is solved. Mysteries, suspense, police procedurals, heist stories—all of these follow an idea story structure.
How much do you need to develop your characters for an “idea” based story?
Most characters in idea bases stories have a flat character ar. Flat character arcs do not focus on character growth or change. I discuss character arcs at length in The Basic Character Creation Workbook, but this is the sort of story that the flat arc is perfect for.
Agatha Christie’s “locked room” mysteries are the best example of how minimally developed characters can still produce an interesting story. Each character is a fixed archetype with a few quirks to make them interesting and to make them legitimate suspects of the crime.
Modern detective stories tend to have a bit more character development and the detective’s personality tends to dive the narrative. However, these characters rarely ever change. All of the eccentricities remain intact and become part of the mystery. The reader stays interested because they want to discover why the character is so horrible or broken how he became that way. A good mystery, thriller, or suspense writer can pick that character apart bit by bit over several books. In fact, the lack of change in these characters allows the reader to use the same characters over and over again.
Idea stories exist in other genres in a larger, more intentional way.
Science Fiction frequently flirts with ideas about politics, class, and race. Women’s fiction challenges societal expectations and patriarchal ideas. Those characters tend to remain fixed as well.
There is a misconception, however, that ideas stories have “bad” characterization. The characters in an idea story have at the right amount of development for that kind of story.
What books have you read or written that emphasize and center an idea? I’ve written one called The Truth of Things. Tell me about yours!
Do you want to learn more about flat character arcs and all the other ways you can make sure that you have the right character for the right story?
Grab a copy of The Basic Character Creation Workbook!
I decided to unpublish Switch. There was just too much story left to tell from Alexa’s POV and I want to do her character justice. Also, I think that it will be important to develop her character in this story for HBW. Honestly, there will probably be so much overlap that I’m not sure how it’s all gonna work out. I’ve never read a series that was mapped out the way this one has unfurled in my mind. I hope it’s a new and fresh idea and not a WTF kind of idea.
I still haven’t made any decision about what to do with the chunk of writing from Elijah’s POV. That may end up being the story I offer for free in this series.
So in summary, Switch is unpublished. Hopefully I’ll be done the rewrite by the end of September. Going to work on both of these stories together to see if I can get them both finished.
Gah, who works like this? All this indecision is making my head hurt. Time for some margaritas…
After reading the glowing review from Dawn at Love to Read For Fun, I felt his inexplicable desire to read my own book. I strongly suspect that it was because of her awesome review. But that’s not what has me annoyed. I’m annoyed because I’ve rediscovered a character that I want to spend a little more time with: Alexa.
Admittedly, Alexa’s motivations in In Her Closet (IHC) aren’t clear. We know she has what borders on an unhealthy obsession with Yves but, outside of sex what does she really want from her? Moreover, what does Alexa want in general? Who is she? What made her who she is?
Needless to say, I went to be pondering this. This is not the first time that I’ve thought about Alexa in this way–hence the companion novella to IHC Switch, told from Alexa’s point of view. That novella was something that just kind of poured out of me in her rambling voice. I kinda fell in love with her tone and I when I began to write Having it Both Ways (HBW), she was the reason why I thought I should write it from a alternating 1st POV that shifted between Alexa, Elijah and Yves. Needless to say, it didn’t work (which is why I’ve been writing this book for like six months!!!). I’ve since started the book over, written solely from Yves’ POV which is what it should have been from the beginning. Only problem is I have this huge chunk of story from Alexa’s POV that is really good and I’m not sure what I should do with. My first thought was to write another companion novella but, when I woke up this morning and read what I have I realize that a companion novella isn’t nearly enough. Not only that, this chunk of writing feels like it should be added to Switch. I know it should be. Now the dilemma is, do I unpublish Switch, rewrite it and sell it as a novel (cuz yes, there is that much more story)? Or do I just do blog serial and write it all the way up to where HBW and Switch meet? Then there is that chunk of story from Elijah’s POV…do I do the same thing with it?
Part of me says it’s time to leave these characters alone. I have other bigger ideas nesting that have nothing to do with them but, for some reason I find it hard to break away from their story…what ta do, what ta do…