It always starts with an idea.
Ideas are like stars to me. Meaning, there are too many to count and keep track of. Sometimes these ideas will come and then escape me. But then, there are those ideas that pop into my head and won’t leave me alone. I’ve found that those are the ideas worth holding onto.
Origin of My Ideas
Working With Youth
I had spent this past year and a half around teenagers. I volunteer in my church as a Youth Worker for the church’s Youth Group. I’ve gone on Youth Activities, attended Youth events, traveling on long road trips to Youth camp. I volunteer at the Christian School where I graduated, playing the piano for their music programs and directing their Christmas productions. I also teach piano at Columbus School of Music and Dance, teaching every age group, especially teenagers. A lot of my time has been spent around teenagers.
During that time, I have noticed what teenagers are fans of. I noticed that several are avid readers. Some are gamers. And some are fans of Anime.
Now I’m only familiar with Anime that have been popular in the US–Naruto, Sailor Moon, Mobile Suit Gundam, Voltron, Dragon Ball Z, and of course Pokemon.
This got me to thinking. “What if I create an Anime-style series for Christian teenagers?”
Now I just did two things right there.
One, I picked my target audience. Not just teenagers, but Christian teenagers. I have heard too many times that when you’re self-publishing and get to that marketing phase, you have to have a SPECIFIC target audience.
Two, I picked what genre to set my story in. Animes are usually set in a fictitious fantasy world. Normally, these worlds are influenced by Japanese culture, or the world the creators know. And Anime story invites supernatural elements like magic to be a crucial element to storytelling.
So now that I have my audience and genre, I have something to start with.
Theme: an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.
Every story has a theme. Every story has that central idea that drives the story from Point A to Point B. Themes can be one of a number of varied ideas. For some novels, there are many themes, creating a more complex and layered story. But I have to be careful about that. If I have too many themes, I lose sight of the story is about.
I have one rule when I set out to write a story, whether it be a novel, play, screenplay, or musical. When I sit down to write a novel, I remind myself of the K.I.S.S. principle.
Keep. It. Simple. Sanderson. (Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy writers. I recently finished his Reckoners series and loved it. A very engaging novel that is entertaining.)
Once I have a theme in mind, it is easy to hone the idea for the story and give it direction.
For my Anime style story, my audience was Christian teenagers and my genre was Anime. Here’s what I have to ask myself: “What do I want teenagers to take away from this book?”
Almost all Anime stories are centered around an ongoing conflict of some kind. Usually, an alien, magical sorcerer or army has invaded and it’s up to the hero, or heroes, to stop that invasion.
Whoa! Where did that come from????? What????? Hahaha….(clears throat)….moving on….
So I definitely wanted to set my story in the middle of an epic on-going war. Now, the Bible says that believers are soldiers in an on-going war with the forces of Satan. There’s my theme. The Christian battle.
We’re a band of Christian soldiers fighting Satan everyday
We’re standing up for Jesus while we’re kneeling down to pray
If His precious blood has cleansed you and washed away your sin
That makes you a member of the blood washed band.
-“Blood Washed Band”, Savannah Foust
Now I have direction.
Ideas are all around. All you have to is look and be inspired. Don’t look too far off in the distance. You might miss what is right in front of you. My faith was right in front of me. Those teenagers were right in front of me. Take what you got and make a feast out of it.
Every really new idea looks crazy at first.
–Alfred North Whitehead