Its much easier to write something when you are constrained by a series of rules. I can bet that if I asked, anyone reading this could quickly come up with an outline for a story set in the Star Wars universe. But if I had to ask those same people to come up with an original story, they would find it much more difficult.
If you are trying to come up with a story, the easiest way I have found is to start big, and refine downwards. Lets use an example. (Im just making this example up as I go alone, so you can see how the idea is being refined. This entire process only took about 10 minutes)
Its important to ask questions. Ill usually find that asking a question is a much easier way of coming up with an idea than just trying to ‘be creative’.
We will start off with the entire world. Whats a defining characteristic of the planet where our story takes place? Its a gas giant. There is no solid land.
HOW DOES THE PLANET EFFECT THE WAY OF LIFE?
If this were the case, what would the cities be like? Huge floating structures, held up on massive gas vents coming up from the planet core. The would cities constantly drift and move across the surface of the planet.
How are these cities kept afloat?
Huge machines sit at their bases, which harness the winds and gasses of the planet the cities alive. The machines have been operating for millennia-their inner workings slowly but surely decaying.
Are there many small cities, or just a few large ones?
How about sometimes the cities drift into each other. Sometimes larger cities will ‘mine’ smaller ones, to incorporate their resources? Strip them of parts.
LETS GO SMALLER….
From here, lets focus on one of these cities. Lets call it CITY 12. CITY 12 is a small settlement.. almost to small to even be called a city.
Is there something different about CITY 12?
Through the description above of the other cities, the one thing that stands out is how the smaller cities get stripped for parts to keep the larger cities going. CITY 12’s machinery has been replaced over the years by a machine that requires no fuel…a perfect recycling plant which allows the small settlement to stay afloat indefinitely.
Now how would this information put CITY 12 in danger? A passing trader finds out about the cities unique machinery. From this we can make CITY 12 a small trading post. Perhaps the machinery allows the city to move against the currents, to drive itself.
Word spreads to the other cities, and soon they are all after this small settlement. Cities have been slowly dropping closer to the planet core…just a few meters every year-but enough to start a panic. This ‘CITY 12’ could be the answer to everything.
NOW LETS MAKE IT ABOUT THE PEOPLE….
This is the world. Now if I asked you guys to think of a quick setup for a story set in this world, could you?
Story Idea 1.
My preference is to take the ‘everyman’ point of view. Our characters name is
‘Cornelious Smith’, the owner of a junk trading shop on the outskirts of CITY 12. While opening up his shop, on a normal morning, a vast shadow covers him. Looking up, he sees one of the huge floating cities above him. CITY 12, is about to be mined.
Story Idea 2.
Alternatively, a bounty has been put out on CITY 12. You play as a mechanic, desperately trying to fix the machinery on the base of CITY 76, a citiy made up of mostly engine, with a small population of about 100 people. Times are hard, and the bounty on CITY 12 could feed the entire city for years. While hanging upside down, under the city engines, you notice a small settlement drifting under you…CITY 12 is hiding in your shadow…
Story Idea 3.
Here’s another one, you are a mail man, making your way to the different cities in your trusty airship ‘Old Rusty’. You’ve heard of this mythical ‘CITY 12’, and on a mail run to PENAL COLONY 24, you come across a prisoner, with device…a tracker that can find CITY 12….
When creating STASIS, this was very much my way of thinking. I created a world, and the placed characters into that world. Give it a try, and let me know if Im just talking rubbish, or if this is something that you guys could use? Its a system that works for me-I would love to know if it could work for you! And for bonus points, try think of a little setup for CITY 12…THE IMAGINARY GAME.