A lot of this is inspired from various sources, particularly Brandon Sanderson's three fantasy laws, and a Simon Sinek quote, except in writing terms. Finally, I've also patterned it around how I want to write a fantasy story at some point. Start With an Idea Simon Sinek said it best: "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." Do you have a reason for writing a story other than you're bored? That won't excite anyone. But, where to start? I say don't start compiling ideas, but start with a theme. 1) Pick what really resonates with you. I was in ROTC in high school, and one time we were assigned to give a three minute speech. For our topic, we had to pick three from which our teacher would select. Well, red-eyed tree frogs happened to be my favorite animal and I had an idea of how I could turn their history and care instructions into a speech. Okay, I knew what I wanted, but would it get picked? 2) Stack things in your favor. I coincidentally had an idea for a plan on how I could better my odds that my topic would get picked. First, I wrote the vaguest topic that came to mind, music. Next, I chose something slightly more specific but still very general, World War 2. Perhaps you don't know what you want right out of the gate like I did. Well, there's a world-sized bargain bin of mundane ideas like these to make use of. Pick from mundane ideas, are you crazy? Crazy enough to pick from, no. Crazy enough to create from, yes. 3) Make something creative and specific. A lot of stories never really get terribly interesting because they don't have a theme that ties everything together or what is there is too vague and mainstream to be interesting. Magic? Meh. Technology? Okay. Mixing the two into something not seen yet? YES! Of the three topics I wrote: Music, World War 2, & Red-eyed tree frogs, what sounds the most interesting? Because it was something specific and mostly unheard of in high school, I got my topic. Turn that Idea into a Web of Cohesion The entire premise of this is to create cohesion. To me, that's what separates a random set of events from an actual story. And now that you've created a unique idea you're excited to write about, you tie everything to that idea. Potential for dynamic characters you can relate to and a deep and intricately built world goes through the roof. And if you're writing a power fantasy, first and foremost, tie that idea to your power system, then to your world. The popular thing with breakthroughs in cultivation are to make them happen to win fights or just happen as they happen. While not bad per se, this is uninspired. Tie your plot to new realm breakthroughs by having them change the world in ways that chain new events. That will in turn give the stronger cultivators an actual reason for showing up. Power Systems: Realism Over Wonder On the note of cultivators and powers, I'm going to change Simon's quote a bit. It's not how many spells a system has that makes it interesting, it's what they can do. Is a magic system with a million spells all that interesting if you see a handful of them? No. So focus on that handful and ask how they might affect the world and people around them, then follow the rabbit hole as far as it goes. Characters Do we even need to repeat the sentence? Yes, that way you'll apply it to every little thing. It's not what your characters do, it's why they do it. However, that only explains someone on the inside, but what about outside? Certainly you want to give your character looks, but do their looks have a reason? Even something as basic as looks can give further depth to a character if you don't overlook it. Layers of Interest Ogres are like onions, and also like people & ideas. They have layers. When you stop and ask what makes someone weak rather than strong, things get interesting. When you stop and ask what a magic system can't do rather than what it can, things get interesting. When you ask if your original idea has made its way full circle into every aspect of the story, things get interesting. A Good Stock When you've got your theme, it's time to build a very basic outline. Note that very basic is as far you're meant to go now. In order to know the end from the beginning, it's important to decide a final scene early on. It doesn't have to be permanent, likely very little will be when writing time comes. Now, start asking what if questions to connect everything. Think through a few very basic outlines, then set the story aside and do something else to take your complete focus off of it. So long as you've thought through possibilities, the mind will naturally filter through things to give inspiration for a natural sequence of events. Like making a stock, ideas need time to simmer. Embrace The Grind Now's where you start writing and filling in the details, it's a simple fact you can't plan it all. Creating anything from scratch is a hard grind, there's no way around it. If at any point you find yourself stuck, go back to asking the what ifs and set the story aside. That's not to say just leave it, but get your mind prepped so it'll help when you do take a break. It's all too easy to have a crash and fall out when taking an unexpected hit, like facing a very daunting grind. However, if you prepare so as to embrace the hit, it can result in an even more desirable outcome. Back at the beginning I talked about making a theme you'd be excited to write about. This is why. Excitement to write about a story with a theme you believe in can create a chemical reaction that'll come through to a reader.