Most stories come from the generation of multiple ideas, ideas which are filtered and distilled down to a core of sufficient worth. In The Matrix the core idea is “What if the world we take to be real is an illusion?”
But an idea without a story is impotent. This is where the story concept comes in, followed by background and setting, which help the writer determine the genre.
At this point, log-lines and the one-liner help to focus the story concept and produce a working title.
The next stage involves a large and powerful leap—the synopsis. In writing the synopsis one determines and explores the main character and supporting cast— the backstory, biography, character traits, motivation, need vs want, goal and transformational arcs, where appropriate. Simultaneously, one builds a plot inflected by structure—inciting incident, pinches, turning points, mid point, climax and resolution.
Now the writer is ready to identify and create possible subplots, central conflicts, obstacles to the story goal, suspense, pace, central imagery, and emotions.
That done, the writer is ready to create the treatment, followed by the step-outline, before turning to that all-important, but malleable first draft. It is here that dialogue comes to the fore, dialogue that ought to be authentic, purposeful and born out of the character’s already-defined traits.
By the end of the obligatory or climactic scene, the writer has exposed the main theme of the story—the winner of the battle carries the theme. In The Matrix, for example, human instinct and heart trump artificial intelligence.
Of course, the first draft is the first of several, as discussed in previous posts, but it does, at least, represent the first exposure of one’s story to the cold light of day.
Keeping a map of the overall creative process in mind is often helpful in supporting the writing of the first draft of a story. This post names the components of one such map.