Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story

teacher avatar Dani and Steve Alcorn, Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Plot vs. Story


    • 3.

      What Do I Write About?


    • 4.

      Project: Brainstorming Your Story


    • 5.

      Next Steps


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About This Class

The Creative Writing Project series helps you complete a novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process, from brainstorming to publication. The goal is to get you published!

This class helps you brainstorm your project, including determining what you should write, and helps you develop the idea for both your story and plot--yes, they are different, and this class shows you why. When you complete this class you will have a clear, written plan for your Creative Writing Project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Character
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors


Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the creative writing project. I'm Steve Alcorn, your instructor and mentor. These classes air all about projects. They're all about creating your own original novel, short story or screenplay step by Step one project at a time. The ultimate goal of this course is by the time you've completed these projects, you'll be ready to publish. I'm the author of a number of novels, travel books, Children's books, nonfiction books about the theme park industry and the book How to Fix Your Novel, which tells you all about the techniques you'll use to structure and create your own original work of fiction. It's techniques that will draw upon throughout this class in order to achieve your ultimate goal of getting into print. So let's get started. This'll project is all about brainstorming. Your story in the lessons that follow will give you a brief introduction to the contents of the course. We'll talk about the important difference between plot and story. Yes, they are different, and we'll show you how to use both of them to your best advantage. And then we'll talk about how you decide what to write about what passion drives your work in the project section. You'll have an opportunity to define that passion and clarify what your story is about in a very concise way. And then finally, I'll show you what the next steps are to move forward with your writing project, so let's get going. 2. Plot vs. Story: in everyday life. We tend to use the term story very casually, and we mix it up with the word plot. But there actually is an important difference between plot and story, and that's what we're going to explore in this lesson. So what's going on here? Plot is physically what happens? Story is the emotional change that occurs. It's a plot is outside and story is inside. And throughout these projects, I will try to use thes terms very consistently and rigorously, and I'd encourage you to do the same. So let's take a closer look. Plot is your protagonists physical journey from place to place from time to time. Story is your protagonist emotional journey. It's what's wrong with them inside at the beginning, and what they overcome and change about themselves to solve their problem at the end. Another way of looking at it is that plot is action and story is reaction. Something happens to the protagonist and the protagonist reacts internally. Then the protagonist does something externally again in the form of action, and as a result of that, succeeding or failing again reacts internally, so it's a constant ebb and flow between action and reaction, plot and story. So let's look at what's important about plot. Plot is not just any old activity. It's meaningful action. It's something that advances what's happening from Point A to point B from time one to time . Two story, on the other hand, serves the purpose of letting us know your character. It's why they do the things they do. But too much story can bog down a novel we've all encountered, perhaps a romance novel that seemed very slow going because we spent all the time in the protagonists head instead of things actually happening. So it's important to achieve a balance between plot and story. Books tend to naturally be more story oriented than movies, And that's because movies have the handicapped that they have to show us everything externally. So we can only deduce how a character is feeling from the actors, expressions and words, whereas with a book, we have more power to dive into a character's head. As a result, if we take a look at something like the James Bond movies, we find that they're mostly plot now. The more recent ones with Daniel Craig have focused a bit more on bonds story, and he seems a more fully formed character. But if you think back over the vast expanse of bond films that preceded that, they're really very heavily oriented towards physical things happening, so they're very plot heavy. On the other hand, the book and the movie Twilight is very story oriented. We spend almost the entire time inside the protagonists head in the book, and the movie has relatively little action in it, so it's very story heavy. So what happens when there's a good balance between plot and story? Well, a great example of that is the Harry Potter series, where J. K. Rowling has done a great job of balancing the plot and the story elements. So a lot of exciting stuff happens as Harry becomes a wizard and a lot of things change about Harry himself as he overcomes his lack of confidence and rises to ultimately be able to confront Voldemort. So that's an illustration of the importance between plot and story and balancing them in your own work. This is a fundamental concept that we will use throughout this class and so really take it to heart and remember that plot is physical and story is emotional and now will use this as a tool in order to create the idea of what you're going to write about as you're writing project. I'll see you in the next lesson. 3. What Do I Write About?: So what do you write about? How do you decide what would be the best thing for you to use throughout this series of projects? Well, one thing that I like to make sure of is that when I write, I'm appealing to my readers passions. That means that they're going to be really engaged with my writing and care about it. So I have to identify, of course, target market and then find a topic that they can get excited about. But at the same time, I need to write about things that I care about. So I encourage you to write about things that you care about. Because if you're passionate about something, your passion will show in your writing and then your readers will respond to it passionately as well. When you're selecting a topic for your story, try to choose the time and place that best supports that story. You can't write about aliens in medieval England unless you're being very creative indeed, and yet you can't have people acting like they're from medieval England. If you're writing a modern story about everyday romance in the 21st century, so it's important to think about a time period and a place that you're familiar with or that you're interested enough in to research so that it will seem very riel as you write about it and make sure that your story is appropriate to the time and place that you have selected. That means that it will be easy for you to make it riel, because you'll be familiar with the place and you'll be familiar with the time. And so you can bring those details to life through either your own experience drawing upon yourself, which is a great way to come up with a story or drawing upon research that you've done. It's important that you know your market not just in terms of selecting the target readers that you're aiming at but understanding the genre of your market. So, for example, if you're writing a romance, there are certain things that always happen in romance novels. Basically, the love interests always end up together at the end of a romance novel. If that doesn't happen, it's not really a romance. It's something else. If you're writing science fiction or you're writing fantasy, then you need to understand the tropes of those particular genres and write accordingly so that regular readers of that material will be satisfied with that. If you're writing historical fiction, you need to understand that the length of historical novels tends to be significantly longer than the length of other genres. So, for example, a good historical novel might run as many as 250,000 words, where as a young adult novel might be under 100,000 words. So you need to understand your market in order to target your story and your writing to fit what editors or readers are looking for in that market. Speaking of markets, Don't chase the market. Now is not a good time to write a book about wizards or vampires or zombies. Those have been done, and you probably don't need to contribute anymore to those topics. Instead, be creative. Find something new, find your own topic. If it's good, people will respond to it. And who knows, maybe you will create the next important thing that comes along after the wizards, the vampires and zombies, and to make whatever you do unique. That's what made Harry Potter book about wizards Unique is that it was a book about wizards in a way that Wizards hadn't ever been written about before. It was not like the old King Arthur and Merlin tails. That's what made Twilight unique is it was not like the old Dracula books. And that's what made pride and prejudice and zombies unique because it was not like pride and Prejudice or like Anne Zombie book. So make your own work unique, and readers will respond to it because of its freshness. And finally, as you tell your story, become invisible. You don't need to be in your novel. Sure, you can draw upon yourself. But readers want a good tale. They want to be immersed in it. They want to become the protagonist of your story. And so step out of the way and let your characters convey the time and the place, their feelings, thean motions and what happens and that will excite your readers. So now join me in the next lesson where you'll embark on defining your own project. I'll see you there 4. Project: Brainstorming Your Story: So how do we put that brainstorming to work now that you know the difference between plot and story, and you know what attributes of your market you should be aiming for? Let's go through a process that allows you to describe in a very concise format what your project is. So begin by writing a one paragraph summary of your story idea. Just pick your characters, pick the time and the place that you've settled upon the genre that you want to work in and just sit down and write a paragraph. If you haven't thought prior to this of what to write about, just pause this video for a few moments and think about that and write that down and then rejoin me. Okay, no, make the first sentence that you write be all about the plot. So set that paragraph aside and write a new single sentence. That is just about the plot that you want to have happened. So remember that the plot is physical, so don't tell us anything about how your character changes or how they feel, or even, really, what motivates them. Just tell us physically what happens in a very short sentence and I'll always just pause me and then come back here. Okay? Now, right, a second sentence. And in this sentence, just tell us about the story. Just tell us how your character feels, what motivates them, how they change in order to do whatever it is that happens in the plot without telling us about the plot itself. Just tell us about how your character changes and then rejoin us here. Okay, finally. Now take those two sentences and edit them together. Turn it back into a paragraph. Try to keep it as concise as you can, but try to create a relationship between the plot and the story. Try to explain what happens and why it happens, what your character wants, what prevents them from getting it, how they change and what happens in the end. So by combining the plot in the story, brainstorm your story to tell us how they intertwine. And in the next class we'll do a project that develops your character and then in the class following that will do. Another project in this project will create a very rigorous description of the premise, which will be a much more formal statement of how the plot and the story come together, toe operate on your character and to change them. So I hope to see you in coming projects. And I hope that you've enjoyed this one until then, Happy writing. 5. Next Steps: thanks for joining me on this journey. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have to. Thing is one of a dozen different projects that are available through this series, of course, is if you follow all of these projects from brainstorming all the way to marketing, you'll be able to bring your idea for a novel, short story or screenplay to reality, step by step and project by project. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up for free writing tips. I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, happy writing.