Mash ’em, fry ’em, stick ’em in a stew – Ideas

So now you know what world view is inherent in your built story world AND you should have an idea of a plot structure, so something’s happening to your characters. What now? Now you think upon the lowly potato. Say whaaaat? Yes, like Samwise Gamgee points out so succinctly, you can do a whole lot with potatoes. I happen to love white potatoes. They’re one of my favorite foods, satisfying carbohydrates and just bland enough to take on many different flavors so they never get boring. I love drowning them in gravy and then smashing it all together to form a hot bowlful of lumpy goop. Or chunky potato stew. Ah, comfort food. I never left the oral stage, apparently.

What I’m trying to say is, you should treat your ideas like potatoes: collect and store them in a dark but airy space and then try them in all sorts of variations. Fry ’em and serve with meat and greens. Mash ’em with a hint of garlic and drizzle with parsley oil (or gravy), cut ’em into chips and serve with fish (and mushy peas with mint sauce! British classic), roast ’em in the oven and add a chicken (or don’t-oven roasted potatoes are great on their own), or cut ’em into cubes and bang them into your boiling cauldrons of … stew. Also, add spices and make curry. Sorry, I went off an a tangent there.

How do you keep track of all those potato meals ideas for your story? One of the best pieces of advice on writing I’ve heard is to have one place where you can collect all your ideas on one story. A recipe index, so to say. This could be an inexpensive school type notebook/pad or a special deluxe notebook (who doesn’t feel like Hemingway when you write in a proper Moleskin?). It could be a file on your computer or a project file in evernote or pinterest. Whatever suits you best. The important thing is to have a curation place, a large casserole you can use to cook up your tasty dish whatever it turns out to be. This is pyschologically important as you write – it’s more likely you’ll pull through and finish this story if you have something tangible -as well as important as a memory tool. It’s something that can sustain your writing process later.

Here’s what I do: I have a tangible copy with a cheap-o notebook and I have a Future Writing Notes File on my computer to collect flotsam and jetsam and wait until there’s enough to make a story.

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As you can see, I’m a messy handwriting kind of person – don’t know what that says about me. Also, I left my book lying around and my daughter doodled on it.

For my fantasy story, I didn’t only include the general outline of a story arc, a character cast, potential names of places, short history and ‘what happens when’ overview, but also a very sloppy, ugly, but practical world map, so that I know what my world looks like on paper and how far things are from each other. This all helps immensely when writing. It’s the bones. This is like the structure I’m building on. What I’m building remains versatile. I allow myself to deviate and uncreate whatever and whenever I feel it”ll make for a better story.

So, you have an underlying worldview, a few characters and a plot structure. You now know you will be eating potatoes. But in what variation is basically up to you. Your oven roasted potatoes didn’t get eaten (yeah, like that’s ever going to happen …) then put them in your stew. Don’t like stew? Make Aloo Saag and serve with steamed basmati rice. The great thing about structure is it lets you change up the meal you want to serve.

Go ahead and create something tangible for your story!

[Don’t like scribbling in notebooks and don’t know what else to make? Do like Quentin Tarantino and mix a soundtrack for your story. I’ve done this for The Living Blade. It’s great to get the juices running just before you sit down to write. Some songs on my mixtape are:

Gnarls Barkley – Run and Transformer (Abbey Road Recording version)

Woodkid – Iron

Adele – Rolling in the Deep (kinda love song)

Alice Cooper – Poison (destructo-love song – also I’m an eighties child)

Rob Dougan – I’m not Driving Anymore (Yes, it’s the coolest background music from the menu of Matrix reloaded!)]

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