This week I am shamelessly stealing a writing exercise from a writing masterclass I am taking at the moment. I am altering it slightly, but all credit goes to the original creator—I’m just not sure who that is.
I am a person who has a lot of book ideas. More than I could ever feasibly write. So I don’t usually do any ‘idea generation’ exercises, as the last thing I want is more ideas. However as I am doing all the exercises in this masterclass, I did this one. And while it didn’t give me a new idea, it did make me reorganise some of my priorities and remind me what I want from my writing career.
So without further ado:
If you could walk into a bookstore right now and buy any book that doesn’t exist, your dream book, what would it be like?
When I first read this question, I realised instantly it was a book I had started writing and put away. My dream book is already plotted and I have written several drafts of it. So, this year I am going to look at tackling it again. Amid other projects.
However maybe you aren’t there yet. Maybe you can’t answer that question easily. So here are some more questions to help you.
What genre is it?
EG: Fantasy, romance, horror, drama?
What tropes, themes or narrative elements does it contain (or do you love most)? Write your top five, or ten, tropes.
EG: Dragons, Arthurian myth, space cowboys, girl disguised as a boy, queer romance, viral outbreak, vampires, political intrigue, marriage of convenience, etc.
What is the tone?
EG: Dark, light-hearted, tense, epic, humorous, melancholy, etc.
What sort of characters do you love reading about?
What are your top five, or ten, favourite characters from books, movies, TV, etc?
What do you like about them?
White a list of twenty character traits for each one.
You can use these three mini exercises to mix and match and create your new characters in your novel.
What sort of relationships do you like?
What have been your favourite relationships in books/movies/tv shows? Make a list of ten.
Are they mostly romantic? Siblings? Parents and children? Friends? Protagonist and antagonist?
What relationships do you want to explore?
What relationship have you been longing to see and read about?
What is the setting?
Is it on earth or a fictional world?
When is it set, now, in the future, in the past?
Where is it set? London? A fantasy china? A futuristic Africa? What times and places fascinate you?
Is there a time in history that you love? Or a type of setting trope? Make a list.
What are your favourite pivotal/key scenes?
Make a list of twenty or thirty key scenes that moved or awed you in your favourite books, movies and TV shows. The scenes that made you feel the strongest emotion.
Can you group them into types? Twists? Cliff-hangers? Big reveals? Declarations of love? Victories? Darkest moments?
What type of scenes are you excited to write about? What type of scene are you scared to try? How could you structure these ideas to have as many of these awesome scenes as possible in one book?
If you do this exercise and feel like sharing, I would love to read what you come up with.
Post it here or even email it to me. I’d be fascinating to see what other people’s perfect books look like. And I hope if this hasn’t given you a brand-new idea, it has at least made you realise what you should be writing, like it did for me.