Bouncing story ideas off other people is a great way to create a gripping plot. It helps you identify when you’re being too predictable (watch for those yawns) or too bizarre (watch for signs of glaze-eyed incomprehension). It gives you the benefit of other people’s ideas, opinions, and experience. Last but not least, it helps stop you turning into a hermit while you work on your book! However, there are some important do’s and don’ts when it comes to bouncing those precious ideas about.

DO be selective in who you ask

Fledging story ideas can be delicate things. When looking for brainstorming buddies, pick someone you can trust to be honest as well as constructive. They don’t need to be writers, but it helps if they are avid readers. Consider friends, family, writing group members, writing tutors … notice how slickly I snuck in a plug for my writing workshops … There are also countless online forums where writers post their ideas and provide feedback for each other.

DON’T make it your sole topic of conversation

It’s easy to get obsessed when you are brewing a new story, but you can’t expect everyone else to be as fascinated in it as you. If you’re bouncing off friends and would like to keep them, pepper in some normal conversational topics too. Even if they’re not quite as earth-shattering as what your sneaky antagonist is up to.

DO express yourself clearly

You’ll find that the mere process of putting your ideas into words will help. It forces you to think clearly and concisely. Saying your ideas out loud helps even more – sometimes I realise how lame my idea is when I describe it to someone. It sounded good in my head, though!

You still have to make the final leap alone!

DON’T lose momentum

Much of what drives us to write is a burning need to get the story out there. Spending too much time talking is bad in two ways. Firstly and most obviously, the more time you chat the less time you have to actually produce. But a greater risk is that you’ll lose the impetus to write. Too much praise for your fine and clever ideas, and the urge to write them down starts to wane. Let your computer keyboard be the outlet for that smouldering story, not a pat on the back from your friends.

DO make the final call yourself

Remember that when it comes down to it, you have to write YOUR story. Consider all the advice you’ve been given but make your own judgment. You know your story better than anyone else, you know your characters intimately. If the suggestion feels right, use it. If it doesn’t – lose it!

Who do you bounce ideas off?

My main targets are my husband, children and brother. I’ve also got a couple of good writer friends that are willing to put up with my agonising. Who do you use? I’ve never tried an online forum and I’m curious to know what you think. Have you had any good or bad experiences with them?

Photo credit: garrellmillhouse / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA jhf / Foter / CC BY-NC

6 thoughts on “Bouncing story ideas: the do’s and don’ts

  1. J. Dominique says:

    Great ideas and advice! I personally like to bounce ideas off of my family, or other writers like me.

    1. Stella says:

      Thank you! It’s great having people who listen to our tortured musings, isn’t it?

  2. Being selective with whom you share your ideas with is particularly important. It’s far better to share your ideas with someone who has a handle on what works commercially/professionally than it is to share with your personal cheer squad. The cheer squad may well have the best intentions, but often their feedback is too amateurish to be really useful. Note that “having a handle on what works” does not mean that the said person is necessarily a writer or an editor. For example, I have a trusted friend who will never have the self-discipline to write, nor the attention to detail to edit anything, but he is intelligent and well-versed on the type of genres I write. So unquestionalby a valuable and worthwhile sounding board.
    Steven Fernandez

    1. Stella says:

      Good points to keep in mind – thanks, Steven!

  3. Susi Lovell says:

    I worry about talking my stories out of me if I share them before I have something down on paper! I’m a bit envious of people who can talk and plan stories with ‘story-buddies’!

    1. Stella says:

      Thanks, Susie, I agree! Talking can be good but not if it becomes an end in itself!

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