Evaluate your ideas

Once you’ve completed compiling a list of story ideas, you can move into an evaluation mindset. However, you still use your creativity during evaluation. Your goal is to add ideas into the initial story concepts that can turn the idea into a more fully developed story.

You can continue to write on paper for the evaluation stage, or transfer the ideas into a digital format. Most people use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages for their evaluations in order to make the records more permanent. It’s very possible you’ll find several ideas for stories in the list so having a good record will be beneficial in the future when you’re ready to tackle your next story.

For each idea, add in notes about the main characters, the obstacles and challenges, and anything else that feels like it could be useful. You’ll find that some story ideas set off a flurry of interesting developments and offshoots. Some of the additions may change the story line in significant ways. After you’ve given it more thought, for example, you may decide you want the story to go in a completely different direction, or change the mood from light to dark or vice versa. Add all of these developments. Keeping contradictions together will be helpful at a later stage when you start focusing on a single story.

Some of your original story ideas will turn out to be unworkable. Either there’s no drama or tension, or things are just too complicated, or you just can’t find yourself interested in the idea, or it really is embarrassing and you want to get rid of it. This stage is where you get to eliminate story ideas that you don’t want to develop. In fact, most of the ideas you’ve created will likely be thrown away. Don’t worry – there’s plenty more to be found in your next brainstorming session!

Mark off the ideas that you don’t want and copy the others to the electronic document. When you’ve made it through the whole list, destroy the paper list. There’s no reason anyone should ever see that list again. You want the assurance that your brainstorming ideas will never be criticized by someone else so you’ll have complete freedom every time you have ideas for stories. Shred the paper with scissors or tear it into small pieces, anything you can do to make sure that the initial list can never be re-assembled by anyone, including yourself.

If throwing ideas away makes you sad, you can always tell the ideas, “Thank you,” before throwing them out. It sounds silly to thank ideas but many people find it surprisingly helpful. “I appreciate your help in fomenting other ideas that can be turned into great stories. Those stories wouldn’t have been possible without your input. Thank you, and you are released.” You are no longer bound to the ideas that would never have been worth the investment and can concentrate on story ideas that have real promise.