All of the stories on CYS are so cool. I want to make a story like those but I never have an idea for a story. And plus, I fear that if I ever come up with a good idea, I'm just going to mess it up or never have the motivation to finish it.
The nice thing about the writing is if you think it's lousy, you just rewrite it. As you read stories, keep track of the things that you like, then explore what it was you liked about it. Was it the song-like cadence of the writing, was it the depth of character that made it feel like a flesh and blood person, or the sudden upheaval of your expectations as a twist is revealed? Work these elements into your own writing, whatever they may be.
As far as the original question, it might be a good idea to start with an event. Maybe it's as simple as a woman throws a drink in a man's face. Trace it back, maybe he made an inappropriate comment. Why? What was his goal? Or maybe they were intimate and she caught him with another woman. If so, why was this the case? An affair or maybe he is actually planning a surprise for his love and the other woman it's actually his cousin. Trace it back to the beginning if your story, but then turn around to build the conclusion.
This event-based construction might be useful until you get the hang of things and start to build larger plots.
Either way, the best thing is to just start the writing and work it until you're happy. If you're not happy, then you're just not done, yet. You can't let a fear of inadequacy keep you from trying.
I probably started and didn't finish about a dozen different things when I was your age. It took me quite some time to get to a place where I could work on something consistently for a long time, and even then, it took me forever to actually get anything done. I guarantee I'm not the only one either, which is why a lot of people will tell you to start out with short stories at first and work your way up to the longer stuff. I agree with this to a point, but I also think it's different for everyone. In my case, I really liked the idea of getting invested in one or two big projects rather than putting out a lot of smaller works, so while I did put a few short stories out there, I never wrote very many of them. That said, I would still recommend finishing two or three before you try anything huge if you don't already have some experience with that. It'll give you a small taste of the writing process before you dive headlong into it.
The other nice thing about writing short stories is that you don't have to find "the perfect idea" for each one of them. After all, you'll probably be finished with each one within two weeks tops, so if you don't like the idea you're currently working on, you won't have to suffer for too long. This will make it easier to come up with ideas too. You've probably do have a few ideas in your head, but maybe you just don't see them as "good" ideas. But if you ask me, every idea can be a good idea if executed well enough. (Well, almost every idea. There are some that should never have seen the light of day, but they are few and far between). That's where short stories come in. They'll let you try out some of those "bad" ideas until you find a "good" one.
Now, if you really are hurting for ideas, good or bad, there's a simple trick I like to play with sometimes. I've never actually used any of the ideas I've gotten from it, but they would certainly work for a story. First, go find something interesting. You can do this by looking around your room, taking a walk, or even using Google. For example, I've got a pocket watch, some shiny rocks, and a quarter ring sitting on my desk. Then, you take the one that interests you the most and look at it for awhile. Come up with a few imaginary histories for the item. For example, my pocket watch could have been created by a wizard in order to seal an evil monster inside. That gives me a few possible ideas already. I could tell the story of how the watch was made, or maybe stay in the present and write about what would happen if it's new owner accidentally dropped it and cracked it, releasing the evil inside. Alternately, the ring could've been the property of a poor farmer, who made it himself so that he could propose to his girlfriend, or the rocks could be the currency of an ancient race of dwarves. See how I've taken simple objects and used them to create interesting ideas? Each one of these could easily spawn multiple short stories. Ideas are everywhere, it's just a matter of knowing where to look for them.
I'm almost done here, but let me give you a few last words of advice. Firstly, when writing a short story, keep the idea small. Don't write about a full scale alien invasion. Instead, take one interesting event from the alien invasion and write about that. It could be as simple as telling the story of a little girl who was walking home from school on the day of the invasion and how she managed to get home safely and be reunited with her family. There's no need to tell what happens after she gets home. You can leave the ending ambiguous if you have too. This is to avoid a situation where you start out writing a short story and have it develop into a novel length project by accident. Secondly, when you do decide to start a bigger project, make sure it's an idea you really like. Ask yourself if you'd be willing to spend over a year working on it, and if the answer is no, you may have picked the wrong idea. When you do get started, plan it out and develop it first. Create character backstories and do world building before you even start writing. You don't have to go overboard with it, just make sure you have a general idea of where the plot is going before you start. I've found not knowing what to write next is one of the biggest motivation killers out there. If you find yourself in that situation, don't panic. Just stop writing for a minute and take some time to figure out what happens next.
Anyways, I hope that helps. I know I pretty much had this exact same problem when I first started out too, so it's nothing to be ashamed of. You'll get there eventually if you keep at it long enough.
Now that'd be a real challenge. I've never really been able to write anything worthwhile in under a thousand words or so.
Here is an example: Link
So here is the thought process from scratch. I will just write down everything while I build a story. (I hope this will be a worthwhile read, comments appreciated, sorry for the long post).
Basically the process has 4 steps:
Sometimes these three steps cannot be separated clearly but it never hurts to think about them separately.
The reality will always be more messy, but we can try to keep the process clean until that happens.
Usually stories start with a central idea: The twist, the wow moment.
For me this inspiration can come from many things. For sci-fi stories it is often that I think about technology
and how it would change the world, if this yields some surprising implications that's the root of a good sci-fi story.
In other cases it is just a certain scene that I want to make happen, say a sailing ship ramming a sea monster.
In other cases the inspiration comes from logical questions. For example can you have a very tight third person narration (i.e. where you only see and hear what the character sees) but the reader will figure something out that the character doesn't notice. This one led to one of the short-stories that I posted.
In any case your central idea must be good. Otherwise there is no hope.
Now when the central idea is done many people just start writing somehow and 'let it flow'. Indeed writing flow will add things that you would not have come up with otherwise. So flow is good but usually you can get better results if you carefully design of your story first.
The task is pretty daunting: You have a beautiful vision in your mind and you want to create an equally beautiful vision in the mind of the reader. The problem is, the only way to communicate with the reader is lighting up pixels on the computer screen, which is a fairly indirect way to manipulate another brain. Fortunately, you get some help. From Culture! In our culture there are certain conventions that help your readers follow the flow of your thoughts. In part, this help comes in the form of cliches. If I just told you that there is this old pirate captain (who will ram the sea monster, but I am not telling you that yet) you have already a picture of him, although I only mentioned three things about him (pirate, captain, old).
So cliche is some help, but I mentioned it only to set up the thing I actually want to write about: narrative arc.
Our culture has a certain image of what a pirate should look like. It also has a certain expectation of how narrative structure develops. If you know and meet this expectation, the reader will be right by your side and clinging to the edge of their seat while they read the story.
SPOILER ALERT: If you know about narrative structure then watching movies will be a lot less fun. Most Hollywood movies follow a very common narrative structure and if you recognize it you can often guess the plot after watching 5 minutes.
So let's discover this structure together. The starting point is knowing your protagonist. Ultimately people are interested in people, and particularly in the reasons why people change their ways. The protagonist is the character in the story that undergoes the most significant change. It is normally the character players root for.
Knowing who your protagonist is, is important. (If you are trying to hook a literary agent to sell your novel, the first thing the prospective agent will likely ask you who the protagonist is.)
In a story game it is easy to assume that the protagonist is the POV character, but that does not necessarily need to be the case. It's actually easier if we chose somebody else to be the protagonist, because we have more control over their choices. In my example the protagonist will be the pirate captain. All his life he has made pretty selfish choices, but in our climactic scene (the wow moment) he will sacrifice his ship and perhaps his life to slay the monster and save the POV character.
Where are we now? We know what our climactic scene will be. We know the POV character and the protagonist, the pirate captain; I will call him Black William from now on. So so far what we know is that we will get in trouble with the sea monster, then Black william will save us by ramming it. So basically:
Sounds good? Not to me. I am really making this up as I go and I now just realized that our story has a problem. We go from low to high too quickly. The surprise is good, but we need to set it up. I still want the help to come out of nowhere for dramatic effect. But before we get this help we start to pull ourselves together. Something more like this:
Of course to make this thing work, we need our readers to be on the same page. You can almost make a list of things the reader must know before we even reach the low point. First, there is the POV character, I will call her Tara Ley. We must somehow make her cool and likable and she is a captain in her own right. Then we have the pirate captain, Black William, the reader must know he is selfish, a man without principles, yet as the same time we already want to plant some roots that will make his change of heart plausible when the time comes. Finally, we want to introduce the sea monster early on. We will discover more things that we need to set up early as planning progresses, but this is already quite a lot.
A common writing problem is a lot of material needs to go in the introduction. Furthermore (even in a story game)
we don't want to give the reader just a bullet point list (Stuff like "You are a wizard in the kingdom of Larion, you have a staff ..." is for AI Dungeon, not us.) This is the show don't tell rule. At the same time the reader won't want to read pages and pages before things get interesting. The introduction needs to interesting in its own right. Fortunately, there are some tricks for that. The best introductions show the characters in their natural environment going about their normal lives (this is Bilbo's birthday in Lord of the Rings, Vincent and Jules discussing cheseburgers in Pulp Fiction, etc.) But normal life can be interesting (Jules and Vincent kill somebody in the next scene, that is Tarantino telling us that this is also part of their normal life)
Books and movies often use another trick to create tension in the introduction. They give a hint of the action that is about to come (the "call to adventure") early in the introduction, but the main character refuses it or can't follow it. (This is Harry potter living with the Dursleys still after the invitation to Hogwarts arrives, Bilbo declining Gandalf's invitation in the Hobbit, etc.) Many fantasy novels also use epilogues to create this extra bit of tension and help the reader through the introduction, but they can be a double edged sword. (The Epilogue is Game of thrones greatest flaw)
So now the outline for our story looks like this:
Now there is another problem. People like winners, but Tara Ley our POV character looks like a looser. When she heeds the call to adventure she gets straight into trouble. Not good. We need to give her an initial success. Also we can"t end straight away after the climax. We need closure and for that we need to see the characters return to their normal life, but of course they have been changed in profound ways by the events of the story. (Think of the characters of Lord of the Rings returning to Hobbiton)
So now our outline looks like this
This structure is the famous “seven part narrative”. It is the fundamental structure that underlies the majority of stories and most movies. If you don't believe me pick a random mainstream movie and watch it again, you will recognize the seven parts.
Now that we know the basic structure, we need to flash things out a bit more. Since Black William is our protagonist we want him there right in the beginning, but why does he show up at all? Our big turning point is his change of heart, but how do we make this plausible? If we want to have the refusal to heed the call to adventure what would make Tara change her mind about this? The first problem seems to be almost the cure for the last.
Black William may be what changes her mind.
Now for the most difficult bit: Why will Black William turn from selfish to selfless? Perhaps because he sees others acting selflessly. Perhaps seeing Tara's crew fight the monster in a hopeless battle is what he needs to see to change his mind. So this could be the central point of conflict between them. Black William is a harsh and selfish man who exploits his crew. Like everybody he wants to be liked, but he does not know how to do this. He thinks if he makes more money for himself and his crew they will eventually like him. Tara on the other hand is selfless, that makes her financially less successful but her crew loves her.
In the final battle we want a real sense of danger, so someone who we mildly care about needs to die. I will call him Isaac. Also we need to somehow set up the selfless behavior of Tara's crew. A good way to set this up is to personify this in one crew member whose actions we can understand. Let's call Valleria. We will need to introduce her as well. There are some choices to make about Tara as well. I think I want her to be a smuggler, illegal but less bloody than pirate.
So far we only have one sentence for every of the seven stages of the narrative, but all the big parts are in place. For the next step we can write one sentence per scene. Let me flash things out a little bit:
CALL TO ADVENTURE
Of course this is a story so far not a story game. So next you want to weave choices in. Putting them in is pretty easy, but bending the story such that all parts are still in place is harder. With certain choices the story could be totally different but we want to still have a working narrative structure. So low point, turning point, climax etc. will still be there. Other people here have much more experience with this so I will shut up about it.
So now we have story sorted out. Before we get to writing we should get to know the world and its characters a bit better. A good ideation technique for this purpose is to write down four words or phrases for every character, place and thing that plays a role. For example Isaac is tall, lanky, funny, black-haired. For the characters we also want to think about how they speak. “Awright me babba,” pirates and smugglers of course don't speak in full sentences of course. Black William has boastful, menacing and sometimes fulminant mode of speaking. Maybe Valleria has a foreign accent etc., but we want to keep Tara talking in plain English. She will be talking a lot and any strong accent would get annoying quickly.
It is always a good idea to cut out needless words. Every word needs to serve a purpose, particularly in the action scenes.
Throughout we want to keep up the show-don't-tell. Consider “The monster is super strong” vs. “A black tentacle winds around the mast. There is a fain crackling at first that growth in volume until it culminates in a mighty crash. The mast starts to tilt, slowly at first then more quickly, taking three sailors with it as it goes over the side. Its evil work done, the tentacle is withdrawn. Where it gripped the mast, the stump is reduced to splinters.”
Once you start writing, just write. Get words down fast. Maintain the flow. Whatever bugs you put in can be weeded out in revision.
Perhaps the best advice: You get good by writing. When a part does not work how you intended it. Analyse the problem. Read some similar passages in books to see how professionals pull it off. That's the way you get better.
Now you only have to write the story. (I can help revising.)
I played a few hours ago, it was really well done!
All of this feedback was wonderful, thank you so much, guys! ^^
Now that I know how to get ideas and start writing, I've always thought that my way of writing was weird. It was too "crowded" I'mma show you an example if you don't understand, lol.
"Emilia runs to the bus stop. Her pink shoes are starting to slip off. "AUDREY!" Audrey turns her head. Bam! Emilia's lunch is on the concrete and Audrey's nose is bleeding. "Oh my gosh! I'm so, so, so, sorry!" Emilia tries cleaning up the mess and tries wiping Audrey's nose. "Come on, Emilia. Let's just get on the bus." Audrey says, with a grunt."
There might not be anything wrong, but damn, I hate this.