Choosing a Subject: Development

This is the second part of my overview of how to choose a subject for a story. My belief is that the best way to do this is to look at the various parts of the story from the perspective of finding the pieces before you begin, and finding authenticity.

You can find these elements in a plot or a character, so you aren’t tied into a dogmatic way of viewing the central mode of a story. This is a process of elimination: if you can’t find these things, your story is likely to have issues down the road.

So, what are the four?

  1. The Initiation
  2. The Development
  3. The Crisis
  4. The Resolution

I wrote about the initiation step last week, and it covers the beginning of the story.

The next part you need is the development.


Characters who don’t have some path to grow are going to be shallow and come across as missing personality. A story with no change comes across as flat and boring to readers.

This also helps make sure that the plot stays connected; going straight from the initial problem to the greatest crisis can lead to a disjointed narrative.

At this point the central character goes through a change, typically for the better. They will encounter other characters, or their relationships with those characters will change.

If the initiation is an initial descent into darkness, the development process brings things to light. This doesn’t mean that the tension of the story decreases.

Rather, the true stakes come to light: what was previously a personal and intimate crisis becomes a national or global issue.

Think of The Lord of the Rings. Frodo joins the Fellowship to gain support, but it also clarifies that almost everyone in Middle Earth needs Frodo’s mission to succeed–or else Dwarves and Elves wouldn’t be getting together at an Elven enclave to discuss things.

The development is usually the longest part of a story; heroes start out unprepared and need to grow into who they will be.

As a result, it’s worth thinking of several points for development; I like to focus on three elements:

  1. When does something incredible about the protagonist develop?
  2. When does something incredible about the antagonist develop?
  3. When does something incredible about the world develop?

Once you can get those three statements written up you’ve got enough stuff going on that you have a story that can be made into something.

Remember that this is a process of elimination: if you can’t find three unique elements that fit this mold then it’s worth taking a step back and asking if you’re going to be able to write a full-fledged story about the subject you’ve chosen. The goal is to optimize your effort.

Just because a story fails at this point doesn’t mean that it’s unfit. It might be worth using in a shorter format or require more development and research.

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