Fleshing out the bones

Hurray!  You’ve gotten the bare bones of your idea down.

The idea looks great, but it reads like a grocery list – you know, something like:

Group gathers together in town, receives quest

Quest consists of finding what ever, and it is over in the next kingdom we are at war with

We need said item/person because this will ensure we don’t get overrun by the lemmings of the unknown

Group travels for three weeks – we need that item by the end of next month!


1) weather

2) wild animals

3) jailed/stopped/prisoner

4) rescue

5) travel – blah

6) enter other kingdom under cover

7) search for what ever

8) hear of what ever

9) find what ever

10) need to get it home

11) reverse course, lather, rinse, repeat encounters with minor variations?

12) Home

13) hide the evidence of ever having been there

14) group breaks up, adventure over


Villain:  Working description – physical, mental, motivation

Hero(es): physical, mental, mode of transport, motivation(s)

Landscape: physical, what time of year, what type of terrain, expected challenges


Hey, it’s a great idea, I swear!  But, it doesn’t fill more than two pages in large handwritten print.


Any tale is a great idea.  It is how that tale is presented that makes it come alive and capture an avid audience.  So, now with this idea, let’s start to put some muscle on it.  If you have a game campaign, you can go back and use my post here to help get you on your way.  If, however, you are starting from scratch, then there is a little more work to be done.  If you are working in sci-fi or fantasy, you will need to do some world  building first.

Get your thinking cap on, and your note taking device of choice ready, because you need to work on some foundations.

Start with where your story is taking place.  What era, what environment, and what time of year/month/day you are starting out in.  Also, may want to think about what type of planet it is going to be as well – desert, tundra, earth like, sea bound, mountainous, or what ever.  Note that down, it will come in handy for you later.

What type of government do you have to work with?  Theocracy, monarchy, democracy, socialistic, communistic, etc.  Again, note this down.

You should have a good working knowledge of your characters by this time.  Do you know where they come from, and just as important, do you know why they are active on this particular quest/story?  If not, better think about and note down key elements for this too.

Where is the path of the story going to wander?  Is it going to stay on the same world?  Is it going to even stay in the same general vicinity of the starting point?  Do you need to think about other places?  If you answered yes to any of these questions other than the last one, then you can begin to think in  terms of how these elements are going to affect your characters, and the over all story.  If you answered yes to the LAST question – go back and build these places the same way you built up your first one.  Demographics, geography, and such.  THEN move on to the next step.

Well, you have the first weak layer of muscle on your skeleton – you’ve managed to figure out where your story is taking place.  If it covers quite a bit of territory – either across the world or across planets, go ahead and think about an approximation for how much of the story is going to happen in each place.  If a substantial portion happens somewhere, note that down.  Example:

Your group starts on earth, bounces through a lunar base, stops over to resupply on Mars, then takes off into the unknown past Pluto.

The time line might look something like: 15% Earth, 2% the moon, 8% Mars, 75% on the space ship.

Yeah, some of the ship bound parts are mixed into the early part of the book, but don’t worry about these yet.  After all, unless your group are experienced crewmen, there isn’t going to be a well established schedule yet, and you can have fun with getting the schedule established, right?

Now, think about each of your stopovers.  What can your group get into trouble doing?  Oh, sure, they can be nice tourists, and do nothing wrong, but where is the fun in this?  You want ADVENTURE in your book, not just the boring hum-drum.  And, from most of the Sci-fi I have read, there are so many regulations on any port, unless you are an experienced spacer, you are sure to bend, if not outright break a few of the rules.  Same goes for the fantasy setting – unless your group has experience moving through every possible aspect of the social structure, they will run into problems.  And, if you don’t think so, add in a cut purse or two!  That will help liven things up, I’m sure.

Each bit of detail you add – to the characters, to the world, adds more interest and more “flesh” to your story.  So, go forth and detail, detail, detail!  When you come to the end of your tale, then you can go back and sculpt through your editing to make it a smooth, aesthetic picture painted with all of your words.

What picture are you painting today?


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