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Capture Your Story Idea In One Sentence


Harness Your Story Idea to Write a Better Novel

When a writer has a new story idea, you spend time thinking about your novel before you ever start writing. You’ll do bits of research. You’ll brainstorm how the story will work. You hear the voices of different characters. You think about what the book is about.

This process is an essential part of getting ready to write a story.

Before you start writing, get organized. Get all your ideas down on paper, or virtual paper. Experienced writers know that memory is fallible. And with all the bits and pieces you have created, there are still holes in your story. Writing a novel is a process. Before you leap in while you still have plot holes and unformed characters, get a good grasp of your story.

The One-Sentence Story Idea

Before you start filling in the missing bits and pieces of your story, make sure you have a firm grasp on the story. Create a touchstone target for your story. Everything you write in your novel relates back to this baseline, and it’s only one sentence long.

This story sentence has three parts:

  1. The protagonist’s role
  2. The protagonist’s situation
  3. The opposition that keeps the protagonist from his goal

This is the acorn from which you build the great oak of your story. All the conflicts, characters, and scenes you create relate to this story core.
Here’s an example for Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.  

A Moscow homicide detective investigates a bizarre triple murder and runs afoul of the KGB and FBI.

Write your story sentence in 25-30 words. Leave out character names, subplots, or any other details. You are constructing the core of the story.

The Story Seed That Grows

Once you formulate the base sentence, everything in your story is stems from and relates to this story seed.

Once you have your one-sentence story idea, you can start to expand it to a paragraph with more details.

You may think that you know your story and have no need to write a base sentence. If so, you should be able to write the sentence in less than a minute.

​Keep writing! 

Zara Altair 
Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Her course for beginning writers Write A Killer Mystery is coming soon. Get on the notification list.

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