Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Idea Germ

Sounds kind of icky, right?

So, what is an idea germ? An idea germ is the small spark within your imagination, the conception of your story. With nurturing, this germ grows into an amazing story. The first step is to discover the germ.

So, how do you go about discovering such a thing? There are many processes which can be taken to uncover the spark, to bring it into recognition, which gives you the opportunity to nurture it to life. Below, you will find a few methods, but the possibilities are endless. Each individual will find his own road to digging up the germs. I only hope to give you a starting point.

Brainstorming or Mind Mapping 

This process normally begins with one word, and then a branching off from the word. This can be done in many ways: paper/pen, word document, or even a mind mapping program. The method isn’t that important. Each writer will discover his own preference. The main thing is to exhaust all possibilities. As you do this, your mind lets free of its normal ramblings and allows you into the shadows.

An Example: NURSE – needle – death – scrubs – doctor – blood – gunshot – victim – assailant

At this point, you should have an idea germ. Here’s mine from this session:

A gunshot victim is admitted to the hospital, where the main character works. She discovers the victim is her father, who left her mother before she was born. Determined to find his assailant, she visits the areas of his life and discovers more than she wants to know.


This process, similar to the above, begins with a blank page and a free flow of thoughts. Set a timer for ten to fifteen minutes. The main point here is to not think too much on what you are going to write. Allow your brain to supply words and let them flow onto the page. Do not stop until your time goes off. Set your results aside for a few hours. When you come back, scan the text and see if a germ appears.

The germ for Escape to Love was conceived in this method. The fifteen minute writing developed into a scene of a woman being transported into emptiness. Blackness surrounds her, and she’s unaware of how she got there or where she is. Out of the darkness, a man emerges, reaching for her. As their hands are about to touch, she begins to fall, landing in a field. Her only thought is of finding a way back to this man. This scene didn’t make it into the novella, but it did create Constance and Lawrence, the main characters.

What if?

This process consists of applying what if questions to a simple idea.

An Example:

Free Willy: What would happen if the animal was not a whale, but an alien? Okay, E.T. has been done, but what if the alien was your little brother? What if the government discovered his ability to blow up things and takes him away?

The germ: Determined to get his brother back, the main character embarks on a journey of danger and discover.

Dream Journaling

This process can be beneficial on many levels, but for this a dream is full of germs. Simply keep a journal of your dreams. Record images, feelings, and thoughts as soon as you can. Dreams have a way of disappearing quickly. Come back later and add any additional thoughts you may have. Mine your entry for any possible germs.

An Example:

You dream of running through a field of yellow poppies. Something is chasing you, yet you feel no fear. It’s almost as if you are leading it, rather than running from it. You come upon a stream, but the water is purple rather than blue. After crossing the stream, a green dragon rises from the shallow depths, and snatches up the man chasing you, swallowing him whole.

The germ: In a realm adjacent to ours, a dragon species survives, dwelling in purple waters.

(Article previously appeared at Savvy Authors - November 2011)

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