I signed up for a five-week FREE series of workshops at the Bellevue Library with local author, Bob Mayer. The first session was on Tuesday and covered the original idea for a piece of writing. (Bob focuses on fiction, but I think this could be applied to any genre.)
His suggestion is that a writer should be able to state their original idea in 25 words or less. These ideas can be a setting, or a plot, an intent, the “what if”. Most of all, this one idea is the foundation of your piece of writing. This idea is the seed for the entire story. It’s what you need to stick to and not stray from. Gulp.
I’m going to attempt to come up with what I’d say were the original ideas of a few books I’ve read recently.
Secret Keeper (Mitali Perkins): A sister must make a choice that will change her life and her sister’s life forever. (PLOT)
Here If You Need Me (Kate Braestrup): How does a widowed, middle-age mother turned minister help people as the chaplain of the Maine Warden Service? (CHARACTER and SETTING)
Happens Every Day: An All Too True Story (Isabel Gillies) : What if a husband walks in one day and tells his wife, and the mother of his 18-month-old son and 3-year-old son, that he doesn’t want to be married anymore? (WHAT IF)
It’s an interesting game, and a great task for any writer to discover the core of our ideas. Give it a try on your own work and others’ work to see what you find.
Who knows, that one sentence may just be the first sentence of your query letter when you pitch the writing to an agent or editor. It might become the tagline on your the jacket cover of your book. Better yet, it could end up being the voice-over in the trailer for the movie based on your novel! Make those 25 words and that idea count.