Developing a germ of an idea…
I get most of my ideas from dreams. It’ll start with either the character, the setting, or a snippet of what’s happening in that world. This snippet is called the germinal idea. It’s not yet fleshed out, it hasn’t grown to a premise status, nor is the plot developed. This is where you take that germ and grow it into something more, something fabulous.
Let’s work with the idea: I’ll start with a clip of a dream where a man wakes from his night of being a shape-shifter. That’s it. There’s no story there yet. In order to build one, we have to dig deeper. So you take this piece and begin to build others around it until the puzzle is solved. For instance: who is the character? We’ll pick Blaine Nomadd for the name. Who is Blaine? A man with an abusive past? The fiancé of a scientist? A construction worker? Perhaps we’ll use all three.
We’re building a bridge to discovery. What is Blaine’s story? How did he become a shape-shifter? How does he feel about it? Perhaps he was bitten by a one-night stand. He’s torn between telling his fiancé who may be able to help him, and keeping his secret. To complicate matters, we decide to bring in a pack that wants to adopt him—or has chosen him as their enemy for some unknown reason.
More bricks. We just keep asking questions, the answers reveal our story. Blaine risked one last night out with his buddies and a beautiful girl at the bar against the future he has with Ellen (Ellen being the fiancé). During the affair, he is bitten and wakes up in a meadow where he finds himself without clothes, blood all over him, and the memories of ripping into something or someone.
The possibilities stack up and are endless. Our story now becomes: one of a man who must confront the savage animal in himself if he is to survive and get his life back. Perhaps the lady he spent the night with knew of his abuse toward Ellen. Maybe she’s a relative and wanted to teach Blaine a lesson. Blaine is confronted not only by his darkness as a human but the reality of bringing a killer out within himself each night. This killer must be stopped. The pack decides they will be the ones to bring justice. Blaine must struggle to save himself, or become a victim like his fiancé.
We may not like Blaine’s character, but we will read on to find out what happens, if justice is served, if he learns right from wrong. So that is how it begins. An image from a dream. Expansion of this. More depth. And there you have it: how to take the germ of an idea and bring in to its conclusion.