How do you know your story is worth telling? How do you evaluate whether or not your idea is a good one? Will it be a “page turner” or a “book closer?” Will readers stay up until wee hours of the morning just to finish the book of your idea, or will they yawn and go to bed early?
In my first post on this topic, I talked about what I liked, what I looked for. I look for unusual things and people. I dig deep to look for the obscure, something that maybe needs to have light shone on it. I look to find the opposites in things, especially when I’m crafting a story. And I look for the extreme. I just read No Safe Haven, by Kimberley and Kayla R. Woodhouse. This is an extreme book. Kimberley and Kayla are a mother-daughter team, and they wrote a gripping suspense thriller in the extreme. A lot of Ronie Kendig’s books also hold the extreme.
In my Craftsman class, our first lesson was how to get ideas and where to find them. We are a media-driven society, so use your media to help you find interesting and compelling ideas. One thing I love about FanFiction.net is that there are so many story permutations on the same theme that everyone tells a different angle. I first heard of FanFiction while watching JAG. Well, FanFiction readers and writers came up with a bunch of ideas about sixth season cliff-hanger “Adrift.”
If you’ve never seen JAG, it’s about navy lawyers. The main character, Harmon Rabb, Jr. is a former pilot turned lawyer for the Judge Advocate General’s office. At the end of the sixth season, the woman he’s secretly in love with for years is about to marry another man. Harm promises to be at the wedding, but decides to squeeze in his “quals” – his qualification flights to continue pilot certification. The cliffhanger has Harm crashed in the ocean in the middle of a severe tropical storm. That summer, numerous ideas about how “Adrift” would end abounded on FanFiction. None of them got it right. One, if I remember, was sort of close, but the creativity of the different scenarios was interesting to read, especially since I knew how it ended. He is finally (because Colonel Sarah “Mac” McKenzie does a sort of psychic exercise that helps people know where to look). She postpones her wedding until Harm is fully recovered from hypothermia. This is the nutshell version. The final scene of “Adrift” takes on a different twist. (spoilers) Mac is adrift in the rain without comfort from fiancé or best friend. The creativity from writers speculating how they would end that episode is the point.
Our Craftsman class gave us a score sheet, which I revised to help evaluate your story ideas. I’ve copied it here.
STORY IDEA SCORE SHEET
Score each question with a number between 1 and 10.
- How marketable does the plot seem? Is it compelling? Is it something many will want to read, or only a few?
- How likely is it that potential readers can grasp the story from reading the back cover copy? Many people make decisions on what book to read based on this short synopsis.
- How dynamic/attractive is the lead character? Is it physical? Are they internally attractive because of the type of person they are?
- How likely is it that you can deepen that attraction? What qualities can you give the lead to make them even more vibrant and memorable?
- How high are the stakes for the main character? How will you raise the stakes from time to time to engage the character to begin a change?
- How excited will you be to spend 6-12 months or longer on this project? You’ll want to be enthusiastic to jump into the story.
- How passionate are you about the concept as it stands now? Would something you add make it better?
- How interested are you in the main character(s)? Is it someone you’d really like? If not, how can you make them likeable?
- Does the main character have the potential to deepen? What motives, characteristics and personality quirks can you add to the lead to make them irresistible?
- How excited are you about the potential theme/meaning? Is it something that resonates with you?
- How passionate are you about the setting? Why did you choose this particular setting?
- How passionate are you about the plot? How is it unique and different?
- How passionate do you predict you’ll be about the plot as you write? Will your enthusiasm stay the course?
If your score is between 120 and 130, you’re ready to write. If it’s 100 to 119, you might want to consider going over your idea in some of the weaker areas to see if you can shore them up. For example, rethink the setting. Can you move the story to another location? Or can you think of ways to make the setting more vital?
If you score is under 100, this may not be the project for you. You may decide to try to strengthen all aspects of the idea, or look for another concept.
This is only a tool, but when you’re ready to write, make the commitment and go for it. Be brutally honest with yourself and don’t pad the numbers.
What about you? How do you know if your idea is a good one? Leave a comment and let me know.