A Lesson by Cecil the Host

On how to process and understand your ideas, and maybe write a wee bit down


If someone were to ask me what the backbone of a story is, I'd have to say the idea. I told this to one of my English teachers, and she lividly denied it, proclaiming that the plot was the backbone of every story ever written. Technically speaking, we're both right. The plot is formed from the idea you have for the story. An example of this is, say... You have an idea about a talking dog who saves the world. That's your idea. Now, you would form the plot from this idea.  

Okay, so you have your idea, now what? Well, you need to write it down. As strange as this may seem to some people, writing ideas down can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes it's as simple as "A talking dog saves the world", but other times, and idea can be hard to write down in words. Sometimes, ideas are feelings, raw emotions that you encounter during your life. Memories and images are ideas, too! So, you can see now that ideas can be hard to actually put in words. I have steps that I personally take for each of these things, so let me share them with you:

Feelings: What could this feeling be (Anger, sadness, joy, etc.)? What could have made me feel this way (My best friend left me, my parents and I got into a huge fight, I stubbed my toe, I met someone I love, etc.)? What do I associate with this feeling, and was there a time that I can remember when I felt this emotion? If you can answer these questions, you’ll probably find it about 5000% easier to write down what you feel (e.x- I'm feeling an unknown emotion. I think that getting praised for my writing made me feel this way. I associate butterflies, warmth, and blushing with this feeling. I remember getting this feeling last week when someone complemented my shirt.) With this, you can further examine your emotions and find a way to transfer them into an idea.

Memories: Memories are a tricky thing, because sometimes our brain can actually give us false memories! Not only that, but our memories can sometimes come and go, or they can be affected by our moods and our viewpoints, along with our beliefs and morals. For example, if you have a memory of your sister kissing a boy you knew, you could be mad, happy, surprised, confused, and weirded out all at the same time! Or, you could be none at all. Also, depending on your viewpoint and prior knowledge, your memory could be distorted. Let me give you two examples of the affect of viewpoint:

1.) Oh my God! My sister is kissing my best friend! I’m glad I was there at soccer practice when he asked her out, because it was adorable!

2.)Oh my God! My sister is kissing my best friend! And I can’t believe he’s letting her!

There are obvious differences between these two examples, viewpoint and emotion being the obvious ones. But we already discussed emotion, so let’s focus on viewpoint. The first example shows that because you were at soccer practice that day, you saw your friend ask out your sister, and thus you were prepared and informed on this relationship. The second example, however, shows that because you missed practice, you were caught by surprise when your best friend and your sister kissed. As you can see, viewpoint usually dictates your emotions in certain situations. Religious and moral beliefs can also change the way you see things! If it was your brother kissing your male friend, some religious views that people hold might cause you to see the situation in a completely different light than if it were your sister.

Images: I personally believe that, out of feelings, memories, and images, images are the most on-the-fence type of thing you can describe. Sometimes looking at a scene can inspire you to create beautiful words that flow out of your mind and onto the paper with ease. Others times, not so much. I’ve had a lot of experiences feeling writer’s block, but one of the worst times I’ve ever experienced it was when my English teacher (the same one who insisted ‘Plot! Plot!’) gave us an image of a place, asking us to tell her how it made each of us feel in a single short paragraph. My picture was of a beach. The project really didn’t seem that hard, so I went home that day with the bold idea that this would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong. I sat there at my desk for six straight hours trying to write a single paragraph about that stupid beach picture (no deoch an doris for me that day). Six hours of my life thrown out the window. I eventually succeeded the next morning (ten minutes before English class) by saying verbatim:

 “This image of  Myrtle Beach in South Carolina made me feel extremely exasperated. The reason for this is that not only did I sit in a single position for nearly seven hours trying to think of words to describe my given scene, but I also ended up taking quite a few Aspirin to alleviate the pain in my back and head. All in all, this small project caused me much suffering, and I find no point in this exercise, as it has absolutely nothing to do with our ‘Of Mice and Men’ story.”

Needless to say, my teacher was not very pleased with me, and I ended up receiving a C- on the project.

To conclude this lesson, I’ll explain a bit on how to turn your ideas into a story! We’ve gone through the process of writing and processing your ideas, but now for the fun(ner) part. Like I said in the beginning, the idea comes before the plot, thus making it the original (or starter) backbone. In developing the plot, you build the backbone one disk at a time. So, going back to the world-saving talking dog. That’s your first disk. Now you need to begin to ask yourself questions like:

-Why does this dog talk? 

-Why does he/she save the world?

-Does he/she have motives?

-What happens to him/her throughout the adventure?

This helps develop character and the plot (both of which we’ll talk about later). Now, on to the next lesson!

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Added on November 5, 2015
Last Updated on November 5, 2015

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Cecil the Host
Cecil the Host

Newland, NC

Just an amateur writer trying to find some friends and get work done.