Sometimes all you need to write a strong fiction book is a good idea. But what if you could make that good idea GREAT? In this episode of the Writing Momentum podcast, Chris and Gena talk about how to find the “golden thread” in a web of ideas that make your book really stand out from the crowd.
Episode 16 Transcription:
[00:00:13].970] - Gena Hello, everyone. One welcome to the Writing Momentum Podcast. My name is Gena Maselli and I'm here with my husband, Christopher Maselli. [00:00:21].240] - Chris Hey, welcome to the Writing Momentum podcast. [00:00:23].530] - Gena That's right, Chris. How are you doing? [00:00:26].790] - Chris I'm doing well. I'm excited because we are talking about ideas. And so I got all kinds of ideas I want to talk about. I'm always excited about that. [00:00:33].990] - Gena I know we are talking today about one of the questions that we get asked a lot is where do you get your ideas? And Chris wanted to share where he gets his idea for coming up with fiction ideas. He is a fiction book writer. And where do you get your ideas, Chris? [00:00:51].470] - Chris Yeah, that's a question that comes up a lot. And I often just say, well, through a couple of ways, usually prayer and creative linking. In today's podcast, we're going to talk about that second answer, creative linking. And I kind of use what now today is called mind mapping, though when I started using this, there wasn't even really kind of a thing called mind mapping. But that's what I do. Because what you want to do is when you're first coming up with the idea for your book, I see all too often where authors take their original idea and they think, I'm just going to go with that and they jump into the book. And it isn't until they get several chapters written if they suddenly realize, I've got a better idea. Right. And so the whole thing is you want to come up with a great idea. Not just a good idea. You want a great idea, a great hook for the book that you're writing. [00:01:48].410] - Gena Okay. I'm listening to you talk about this. I'm listening to the creative linking, which you say is really mind mapping today. And coming up with that great idea, you're looking for that golden thread, aren't you? That golden thread where you can take an idea from the inception or the inciting incident and take it all the way to the end. But talk a little bit about that, Chris. What do you mean when I say golden thread? You've talked about the golden thread before. What do you mean by that? And how do you know that you've stumbled across upon that golden thread? [00:02:28].430] - Chris Yeah. So when you're writing down your ideas, like imagine a mind map or like a web. Right. If you're putting down your ideas and you're putting all of these ideas down on paper, you're eventually going to find one idea among all those ideas that you're going to say, that's the ticket right there. That's the golden thread. That's the one that works. Let's go ahead and let's imagine with me, if you will, that you have a piece of paper in front of you and let's just go through this process together. Okay. So if you have an idea, you might start off with an idea like, let's say we're writing a book for middle graders. That's my favorite genre to write for. And let's say my idea is I want to have a book about a child photographer. Okay. I think that would be cool. The kids into photography. Now, I could jump off and start writing the book right there. Right. I could just say I'm just going to go ahead and be a panster. I'm just going to start writing and just get into it and write about this kids who's a photographer and all that's good. [00:03:24].860] - Chris And you can do that. But I like to take it several steps further before I just settle on that. So what I do is I expand on that idea kind of in a web format. So we have in the center of the paper that box that says child photographer. And I start drawing boxes out from that box. So imagine a mind map or just a web that you're creating on paper. And I start thinking, what are all the ways that I could go with the story? And I might write 20 different ways down. For instance, I might say the child won a contest, or maybe they take pictures of important people, or maybe they find an old camera. Right. And I'll come up with like 20 ideas like that. Then I'll take each one of those and I'll see if there's any of those that really start to have good ideas come off of them. So, for instance, we said he takes pictures of important people. What if he takes pictures of friends of his. Right. That gives me another idea. What if he takes pictures of his enemies? Can't you see the story starting to formulate now when you start doing this? [00:04:31].340] - Chris What if when he takes pictures of people, they suddenly become famous? Well, that's kind of interesting, especially if it's his enemies. Or what if like this, what if they disappear? Now you're starting to make this story real interesting, right? Or what if now let's go off the disappearing one. What if they disappear and then he takes a picture of his enemies and he starts making enemies disappear? Or what if he takes a picture of his parents? Now can you kind of feel the goosebumps now, like that makes you go, oh, this is starting to become a really interesting story. And I haven't even written anything yet. Right. I'm coming up with that inciting incident. What is it that's going to happen that's going to propel this story forward? And then whether you're a plotter or a panster, you can go on from there. But I think it's really interesting to find that golden plot. There's an exercise that we do in some of the classes that I've taught where we'll say, okay, we're going to start with the idea of a child who discovers when they're 13 that they're an angel. Okay. They got wings sprouting out of the back. [00:05:38].630] - Chris And then we say, where can we go from there? And I've been in some classes where we've come up with ideas like, oh, they're not just an angel, but they're a Guardian Angel. Oh, they're not just a Guardian Angel, but they're called to be a Guardian Angel of their worst enemy. Oh, do you see how again, goosebumps right. They just makes everything come alive. And by doing that, you keep yourself from getting far into your book and then discovering, oh, this wasn't the direction that I wanted to go where I had a much better idea. And now I have to go back and rewrite the whole thing. [00:06:12].580] - Gena Well, and I think it's one thing that's interesting that you're talking about here, because I see these points when you're giving these examples of, well, we start here and then we go here. And what if we go here? And then what if we go here? And I think there's a golden thread through what you're saying here. And that is where something happens that really makes your character very uncomfortable. [00:06:36].720] - Chris Right. [00:06:37].240] - Gena And it could be a decision that they're making. It could be something outside that happens to them, but they have to follow that through. And that's also what it sounds like you're looking for here. You are looking for that tension. You're looking for that conflict. You're looking for that thing that makes you say, well, what happens next? It's that page turner and that cliff note or not cliff note, but that cliffhanger that you're looking for that can propel the story on. Am I right with that? [00:07:10].630] - Chris Yeah, that's exactly right. And I think it's important to note, too, that this I tend to veer clearly toward the fantastic. Right. In my writing. I like the Sci-Fi, the fantasy, the stuff that's really out there and strange, because that's my style of writing. But that doesn't mean that your plots need to go that direction. You can still use this kind of method in a very normal plot and still discover a story that you didn't realize was there before. Because let's face it, any story about someone who's just a photographer would not necessarily be a bad story. But you start to bring in other aspects of that, even if they don't make someone disappear, even if it's just taking pictures of important people. And then they take the picture of the wrong person, or maybe it's a romance and they take a picture of someone and then they start to fall in love with them. Right. That sort of thing. You can go all kinds of different directions with this, but it helps you find your story. And that's what I think the key is not just to go off the very first thing. And I even would suggest that this could happen with nonfiction. [00:08:17].220] - Chris If you've got an idea for a nonfiction book, plot out the different ways you could make this book go. What are the points you want to cover? And very often you'll find out that the points you first thought you wanted to cover is not the golden thread. The golden thread lies a lot deeper. It's a lot further into that story that you're writing. [00:08:37].050] - Gena And I've heard that from many writing coaches, many professional writers, that they will say that they often will hear someone talk about a book, even a nonfiction book, and they will say, well, you think your book is about this, but really what your book is about is something else. There's a deeper something that they're trying to touch on or a deeper answer that they're trying to get to or a deeper problem that they're trying to fix. And that is what a beautiful thing to come through that and see that come alive. Well, Chris, I want you to go through and just quickly recap what you've covered here today. How do you come up with that great idea? Not just a good idea, but a great idea. [00:09:19].760] - Chris Yes. I use a method called creative linking after a lot of prayer. Right. I'll sit down with a piece of paper and I'll put my basic idea in the center, and then I start to create little spokes off of that center. And I'll create like a web of ideas down on the paper. And each one of those ideas, they come off that center idea. I'll expand to even more ideas until I may have 50 or 60 different threads on that paper. And then eventually by looking at it and sometimes I'll let it sit for a day or two. But eventually I'll look at it and I'll realize there is one golden thread, and that's the one that I want to start with with writing my story. And so here's your assignment this week. Right. I got to give you an assignment to give your writing momentum. And what we'd like you to do is take that manuscript that you're working on and sit down and create this kind of plot web, do some creative linking and ask yourself, what ideas could you have come out from that? And maybe you've already got your story well underway, but you've got a subplot that you want to flesh out like this. [00:10:23].590] - Chris Well, go ahead and you do this with the subplot because you can do this with subplots, too. But go ahead and start creating your creative linking and do that with your story. And if you don't have an idea for a book yet, this is also a great way to come up with that initial idea. [00:10:37].660] - Gena Absolutely. And even if it's not the book or the idea that you finally settle on, there's nothing like practice to make you get better, to make you get faster, to make you just become more comfortable with the process, no doubt. So thank you so much for tuning in today to the Writing Momentum podcast. We hope that this has helped you and that you will rate, review, subscribe and share this podcast. Please share it with your friends. We're really wanting to get to a place where we can help as many writers as possible and just really help them grow, help them achieve their goals. There's room for all of us to write and be in the market and sell our books or articles. We talk a lot about books, but we're not just about articles. Chris and I do a lot of freelance writing as well. We do a lot of ghost writing for articles, for magazine writing, for blog writing, just all different types of writing. So again, please rate, review, subscribe and share and we will see you next time on the Writing Momentum podcast. And until then, we hope all your writing has momentum.