Developing a story concept

Story concept development, Natalie? Isn’t that the first thing you have done before you start writing? Everybody has a story concept! The trouble is just that, really. Whether they have developed their story concept sufficiently is an entirely different story. *cough cough, ahem*

I recently had to develop a story concept and it reminded me again how much work goes into it. Whether you develop it before you start writing (planning) or during (pantsing), development will have to happen.

So, what do I mean by developing a story concept?

Let’s say, you want to write a story about a guy, let’s call the guy Hanus, who discovers the truth behind why his older brother always been so hard on him.

Well, that’s really boring why would you want to write about that?

Story concept development one: He’s the heir to the throne of Snahuek.

Wait! I thought you said he’s a younger brother. General succession rules say the throne goes to the firstborn.

Story concept development two: He’s not a younger brother at all, the “older brother” is really his tutor who was preparing him to rule.

Okay…that does explain the succession issue. But how on earth did everybody hide his identity from him?

Story concept development three: The king and queen of Snahuek had Hanus spirited away when he was born.

What? No parent would willingly send their child away with someone else…and they need a successor.

Story concept development four:  Because the kingdom of Snahuek was vulnerable from protracted border wars with neighbouring countries that wanted their silver mines, the king and queen were desperate.

Nope. Still not convinced.

Story concept development five: The queen bore twins – a boy and a girl. They did not tell their people of the second child. They kept the princess with them, already starting talks with their most powerful neighbour to arrange an alliance through marriage. Their son, and true heir, they had spirited away, so the alliance would not be hindered and, one day, he could return and continue the royal line and save Snahuek from being absorbed by the neighbouring country because of the alliance.

Huh. That actually makes sense.

Now, you see how the backstory has been developed. It’s not fully developed but it’s a long shot from the initial idea. Depending on what kind of story you mean to tell, this backstory could be the piece of information that gives the main character the edge he needs to overcome the antagonist in the final face off.

Each aspect of the story will have to be developed like this. The story concept or theme, characters, setting, story line and conflict. Leave one of these un(der)developed and you have a story that most readers won’t finish.

Why is it so important to know where the story is going? It’s so you can foreshadow the resolution throughout the exposition. What on earth is foreshadowing? You know how, the first time you watch a movie, you just enjoy the ride…but, the second time, it’s like you’re seeing a whole new movie? You see the knife that was used in the murder lying on the kitchen counter. You see the murderer talking to someone in the background and then scowl at the victim as they walk away.  You notice small things that foretell the ending. That is foreshadowing.

Feel free to leave comments and questions!


A Geek of All Trades – podcast

As a writer just starting the journey to worldwide fame and celebrity (oh, see how my eyes glitter at the thought of receiving my first Nebula award…which, of course, will only happen once I actually write enough to get nominated for such things), it often feels like being doomed to the depths of endless obscurity. But, if an unsolicited request for a podcast comes along, it feels like the light just got switched on at the end of the obscurity tunnel.

While I was busy preparing for the Phoenix Fire launch at The Nexus, I was approached, much to my surprise, by Douw and Greg from Geek of All Trades for a podcast. It was a clear sign that word was spreading about the local writers and that we were, in fact, actually doing the thing – you know, writing and actually publishing the results.

So it happened that Ann-Elize de Ridder (author of Layers of Darkness) and I were sat down with our gracious and, oh, so punny hosts a few weeks before our launch at The Nexus. I’m afraid I was a bit less than eloquent on the day but, luckily, Ann-Elize was on fire and helped my floundering self through the challenges.

Have a listen to our wild race through space <<here>>.

Phoenix Fire – book launch

Phoenix Fire book launch

It’s been a few weeks since the Phoenix Fire book launch and I’ve had a chance to centre myself again. What a ride! I’m sure you could tell from the tone of my various posts leading up to the release of Phoenix Fire and the day of the book launch that I was dealing badly with stress. *laughs*

I’m happy to declare that the launch was a success. The decorations looked pretty. Fans and supporters attended. Copies of The Flight of the Phoenix and Phoenix Fire were sold and signed.

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I would like to thank Grant, Tex and Les for lending us the space at The Nexus. Their friendly staff and mesmerising milkshakes (at The Nexus Cafe AKA Catz Pyjamas) made our day so much easier than previous launches I’ve been a part of. You guys rock!!!

If you live in Gauteng (South Africa), I can still supply you with copies of both The Flight of the Phoenix and Phoenix Fire in person. Outside of Gauteng will incur courier fees. It appears that some of the Flight authors still had a few knocking around.


Phoenix Fire on Release the Geek

I got a surprise email from  Les Allen at GeekXP, asking me whether I’d like to do a podcast for Phoenix Fire on Release the Geek. I’m sure that you can tell from this post’s title that my answer was “Yes, please!”



It was a truly novel experience to sit next to Vittorio (Phoenix Fire author) for this interview. I know him as the loudmouth joker whom everyone listens to at parties and gatherings. He’s charismatic and always the life of the party (right along with Les, our host). On this auspicious Sunday, he was quiet as a mouse, waiting for his turn to speak. It actually threw me off my game a little. Good thing Les is such a good talker. He smoothed over most of my confusion at having Vittorio so well behaved and nervously excited. (Heck, Vittorio’s been in movies! I have a DVD of District 9 with his signature on it.)

Shout out to my cat, Pantoffel, who clawed Vittorio during the interview. You’ll hear mention of the grumpy kitty in the podcast. Poor thing has a bad back.



Have a listen to what Vittorio Leonardi and I had to say about Phoenix Fire on Release the Geek – the GeekXP podcast. Just click on the GeekXP button or <<here>>.



Phoenix Fire book launch

It’s time for the South African book launch! If you are in Gauteng on 24 February 2018, you should hightail it to Nexus in Randburg to come meet the authors and have your copy of Phoenix Fire signed. Don’t have a copy? No problem! We have a few on hand at R200 each. And, if you buy your copy at the launch, you stand a chance to win a R500 Nexus voucher!

If you missed out on the previous anthology, The Flight of the Phoenix, you will be able to buy a copy at R150 at the Phoenix Fire launch.

Book launch details:

  • Date: 24 February 2018
  • Time: 14:00-16:00
  • Venue: The Nexus – 21 Harley Street, Ferndale, Randburg

Authors attending:

Natalie Rivener Flame_black_100 Ann-Elize de Ridder Flame_black_100 Richard T Wheeler Flame_black_100 Carmen Dominique Taxer Flame_black_100 Ryhen E Knight Flame_black_100 Vittorio Leonardi

Come join us at Nexus Cafe afterwards! Us authors will be having some of its legendary milkshakes to celebrate the launch. You can check out the Nexus Cafe menu right now if you’re curious. It’s definitely in the local geek style. I had a self-deprecating laugh when I checked it out. My order so far? Roasted Marshmallow Deluxe Milkshake and Cheesy Chips. Droooooooool.

Phoenix Fire – RSA pre-orders

The plan hadn’t been to do a local print run…but, it turns out, I have a bunch of local fans who prefer getting my books, not online, but from me…in person. So, here we are. I am currently wrangling with our printers for technical specifications (there are oh-so-many little niggly details that no one ever hears about).

Local release details

  • Release date: 16 February 2018
  • Cost: R200 per copy (excluding shipping)
  • Fill in this handy form ↓ with the number of copies you want in the Comment section.

    If you want to get your copy of Phoenix Fire from me in person, keep an eye out for my next blog post that will cover our book launch at Nexus in Randburg.

Pre-oder Phoenix Fire!

You have waited long enough! Phoenix Fire is finally available for pre-order! Yes, on Amazon, it means that the eBook is a bit more expensive…but you do get it delivered to your Kindle (or Kindle account) the moment it is published.

If you want to save those last few pennies (or whatever small change is called in your country – here, we use cents), mark your calendar for 20 December! Phoenix Fire will be available on Amazon as both eBook ($8.99) and print-on-demand versions.

Pre-order Phoenix Fire