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!