Sometimes it feels like creating a story, a good story, requires a lot of time and effort, but a good story idea might be hidden in one sentence if you only give it a chance.
Of course, one sentence itself is not enough to be a story, there still will be some thinking and creating to be done, but it’s a good start and base you can build on. Contrary to what you think, I am not about to advise you to “try to sum up your story in one sentence”, as this would be something you do after all the creating and thinking is done.
Your sentence can be anything – a piece of dialogue, a quote from a song that particularly appealed to you or an awkward piece of text you found browsing through the magazine. All it has to do is to entice some emotion in you – be it fascination, excitement or even disgust. You can easily build around it and flesh it out into a full, engaging story just by asking questions “How?” and “Why?”.
Let me give you some examples from my own writing.
I came up with an idea for my story, “Miye’s In“, in a rather dim time of my life. I felt down and grumpy, but I couldn’t find any particular reason for my state. This is when, using the terminology from the SagaCryptom universe, I thought “My In is sick”. If you are interested in the term itself, I can only recommend reading about the In-types on SagaCryptom page, but for this text purposes I will alter the sentence and incorrectly refer to “In” as a “soul”.
So, we have a sentence “My soul is sick”.
I liked the idea of something immaterial causing sickness, so I instantly imagined a young girl saying such sentence. This picture immediately posed some question – why she would say that? What really happened? Speculating on possible answers I ended up building a whole story, just from one sentence!
But since my initial though bound the sentence and the idea to a particular world (as I mentioned before, “In” is a term coming from SagaCryptom universe and describes an idea more unique that “soul”), my work was somewhat partially done, as I didn’t have to do an extensive world-building, just pick a particular location and time.
It doesn’t mean you can’t start completely from scratch.
There is a beautiful a capella song “Butterfly” by Rajaton. I loved the melody of interweaving voices creating both music and the lyrics and a part of chorus caught my attention. “Tomorrow I die” they sang, and I thought of a butterfly girl who was just “born” and she knows she will die the very next day. Playing with the idea made me come up with a sci-fi story of genetically modified humans and choices they make. But someone else having the same “resource” sentences might have come up with a cyberpunk story of self-conscious AI or an epic ending to a fantasy war, where a young soldier awaits the final battle, and he knows he will most likely die.
How did the AI become conscious? Why will it die? Can AI die at all? What kind of war is it? Is the soldier being sent on a special, dangerous mission? What does he think of his enemy?
These are questions that instantly popped into my head as soon as I finished writing previous paragraph. If you play with the ideas long enough, you will surely end up with a story. In the end, it might even lead you to something completely different than you’d thought it’d be, but as long as it makes you write – it doesn’t matter, right?
So, what are you waiting for? Pick your sentence and create a new story!
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.