Growing Ideas ~ GUEST POST with Haley Whitehall

21 Feb

As promised I am now posting the first of my Feburary “guest posts”. I’d like to thank Haley Whitehall for sharing her insight on developing ideas, and for finding the time to do a post for my blog! You can the find the link to her website at the end of this post. Enjoy!

Some ideas blossom into novels, other short stories and others don’t go anywhere. Is there a secret formula for growing ideas. No, but a little fertilizer often helps.

I always have ideas for new projects running around my head. Often I keep pushing them aside so I can focus on my current W.I.P. Sometimes my ideas start with a title. My current novel Shades of White was like that. I started thinking what could Shades of White mean? What does it imply?

Sometimes I start with a character. That is how my Civil War series started. I developed my protagonist almost instantly although throughout writing my series the character changed. Example:
Peter Warren is the only son of a wealthy plantation owner. His mother dies giving birth to him and he is raised by a Negro woman who acts as a single parent because his father refuses to accept him.

If your inspiration for a story was character based you will eventually have to organize a plot to fit the character. You will have to put that character into a series of interesting situations which climax with a character change–meaning he grows throughout the story.

Other times my ideas start with a scene. Example:

A boy moves into a mansion and realizes his room is already occupied by a smart-alec ghost. The two fight instantly over who the room belongs too and the ghost thinks the boy is a spoiled brat.

If your story idea was based off a scene, then you will eventually have to create your characters to fit that scene. If the scene involves a particular time period or setting, then they have a basis to work around which might involve some necessary research. Once you have established the characters and setting of your scene you can move onto to writing the plot.

No matter what idea comes to you the process for growing them is the same. This process involves “What if” questions. What if questions are idea expanders. They make you think of situations and how your character would react to those situations. It is kind of like a game of like the worst case scenario game.

Let’s take my example of the boy and the ghost and play with it. What if the boy is the only one who can see the ghost? What if his parents think he talking to an imaginary friend and believe it is too old for that foolishness? What if the ghost has an agenda and promises to leave the boy alone if he does something? What if the ghosts asks him to do something illegal? What if the ghosts asks him to do something that he is afraid of such as go into a cave with bats? What if the ghost and the boy become friends? What if the ghosts introduces the boy to more of his ghost friends?

See how the idea grows. It grows in several different directions. Once you pick a direction your idea is going to take you can proceed to mind mapping, outlining, free writing or whatever works for you to get the idea on paper.

It is usually in this step that I realize if my idea is going to bloom into something lengthy and complicated enough to sustain a novel. Or perhaps it is more like a border plant that adds a little color to the shady corner. It is entertaining enough for a short story but doesn’t grow beyond that. The other option is that the idea should stay a seed. If it remains a seed I will be sure to record it in my idea book. Perhaps next year will be a better growing season and that idea will blossom.

There is no one right way to grow ideas. I just explained my process. Do whatever works for you and if it is different than mine please share.

By Haley Whitehall



12 Responses to “Growing Ideas ~ GUEST POST with Haley Whitehall”

  1. Alexander M Zoltai February 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    One word sprang to mind after reading this post–“Organic”.

    I love the idea-seed analogy with its various types of possible plants and the need to fertilize 🙂

    If it might extend the analogy:

    Writing is organic, from fertilizing the seed-idea to pruning the story branches…

    • nkeda14 February 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

      Organic is definetly the word I would use for this post. Good choice of words!

      • HaleyWhitehall February 22, 2011 at 8:51 am #

        Thanks, Ally. I like the organic process of planning and growing ideas before I am forced to conform to some sort of structure.

    • HaleyWhitehall February 22, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      Alexander, pruning the story branches would be a great idea for another post. Thanks for inspiration!

  2. Selena February 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    Wonderful process, Haley! The seed analogy is perfect and well suited for this time of year.

  3. wovenstrands February 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    I need to get organized and start writing my ideas down. I’ve been pushing over everything to focus on what I’m currently writing. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • HaleyWhitehall February 22, 2011 at 8:52 am #

      I’d love to read your ideas although focusing on what you are currently writing is also important. It takes a lot of time and time management to do both.

  4. Simone Benedict February 22, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    I love how you describe the way you grow ideas. I also like your idea of a seed container in which you let the ideas sit then wait to see if they germinate. As someone who raises a vegetable garden each year, I can really relate to your process. Mine is somewhat similar.

    I would add to your “what if” scenarios for ideas. These are like hardening the young plants before we place them outside to face the hard elements. Great post!


  1. Growing Ideas « Soldiering through the Writing World   - February 21, 2011

    […] I found writing this guest blog very interesting because I learned more about myself as a writer. The topic of the guest blog is Growing Ideas.  Did you know that once inspiration hits you can grow those ideas? In my opinion, an idea is like a planted seed. Sometimes it will turn into a blue ribbon flower at the fair and sometimes it won’t live very long. Every one has their own process for growing ideas. Want to know what mine is? Check out my guest blog post here. […]

  2. Haley Whitehall « Solitary Words - February 21, 2011

    […] In the meantime, check out her words of wisdom on Novel Ideas! […]

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