So, you want to write a story but have no story map. Sure, you have a genre or character in mind. Maybe even the beginnings of a plot. But you sense it’s not quite enough to get you started. So, where to from here?
You need a story map to help you find your way.
It’s worth remembering that stories come from the generation of multiple ideas distilled 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?” In Before the Light, the core idea is: can super-powerful computers be trusted?
But an idea without a story is toothless. This is where the story concept comes in, followed by background and setting, all of which help the writer determine the genre.
“A story map assembles all the ingredients necessary to the writing of your first draft.“
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 explores the main character and supporting cast, his backstory, biography, character traits, motivation, goal and transformational arcs. Simultaneously, one builds a plot guided by structure—the inciting incident, pinches, turning points, mid-point, climax and resolution.
Now the writer is ready to create subplots, central conflicts, obstacles to the story goal, suspense, pace, central imagery, and emotions—in other words, to write the treatment, followed by the step-outline.
By the time you have outlined your obligatory or climactic scene, you will have exposed the main theme of the story, since the winner of the final conflict carries the theme. In The Matrix, for example, the theme is: human instinct and determination trump artificial intelligence.
Of course, the first draft is one of several, as discussed in previous posts, but it does, at least, represent the first exposure of one’s story to the light of day.
(For a detailed explanation of each narrative element mentioned above, please use the search box to locate relevant articles on this website.)
Creating a story map helps you plan your story. This article mentions some of the many components of such maps.