Moving Past the Conceptual Stage

I often get asked, “how do I know when I have enough of my story to actually begin?”

You need to understand this;

As a writer, you’ve already begun.

It’s our very nature to observe the world we live in and convey that experience in our writing.

Have you ever met a person with an over-the-top personality, or really striking physical nature and thought, “man, what a character?”

Or had your breath taken away or some other intense emotion when visiting somewhere? (maybe super creeped out by some old basement or awe struck by a panoramic mountain view).

Or maybe stumbled across an amazing sounding name, or really interesting word that evoked some greater meaning or symbolism to you.

Even if you’re not consciously aware of it, we writers log and categorize EVERYTHING we see, hear, touch, feel, and otherwise experience.

Sometimes (usually subconsciously) we compile material for a story for a REALLY long time. This is totally fine.

By understanding this, we realize it’s not a matter of when we begin a story, but how much of our time we allocate toward any one specific story at any given moment.

Think of your stories as seeds in a garden.

Some seeds like radishes sprout in as little as 3 days… where some hot pepper can take near 50 days!

As your seeds germinate and grow into seedlings or immature plants, you may decide its time to give them more attention to make sure they grow into their full potential.

Entertainment Value

Unless you’re on a deadline working for someone else, always put your focus on the stories that entertain you most.

Happy writer… happy reader.

* If you find yourself abandoning projects after a time when they become less entertaining to you, it shows a lack focus and follow through on your part. AND/OR you’re not developing stories with enough substance to them. A good story that entertains you at the start, should have the legs to keep going until it’s finished.

I’m going to touch on some of the main principles I discuss in Storycraft, I’m not going to explain them in detail here, but you should be able to grasp each concept.

Master Theme

Master Theme is your message to the reader.

It’s not uncommon for a Master Theme to take a while to develop, or change a bit as the story takes shape. However, a story plant will never bear fruit without a Master Theme.

So without a Master Theme, your story will never be complete.

If you’ve got one story WITH a Master Theme and another story, you’ve been struggling for quite some time to figure out your Master Theme and still keep coming up blank or unsatisfied–focus your attention on the story with the Master Theme.

Core Concept

Ultimately the core concept centers around the deeper personal meaning as to why you’re developing this story. Stories without deeper meaning will be stunted story plants.

Not having your core concept straight is going to hurt you from the start. You could wind up going quite some way developing your story, only to find out it’s really not that important to you. Not having your core concept could be an early warning or indicator; don’t put too much time into this one.

The MAF (villain)

With very few exceptions, the energy of a story comes directly from the MAF. If this source of conflict is weak and underdeveloped, your story will be thin, spindly, and diseased.

A clear understanding of your MAF, particularly his goal, and overall strong MAF character, indicates a healthy story plant.

Having the MAF squared away early on isn’t a requirement, but the longer you go without him (her or it), the messier things are gonna get!

Character Arcs

In layman terms, if you’re running a protagonist character arc, and you mostly should be, you identify the character arc through a major character flaw. The character fixes the flaw by the end of the story.

If you don’t have solid character arcs in place, your story plant may produce fruit, but it’ll taste like shit and nobody will come back for more.

Character arcs are probably the easiest one to fix if it’s lacking or missing… but you dang better sure you don’t forget to come back and fix it! Having the arcs in place from the start make everything flow so much easier.


Yes, I said it plural.

When you’ve got the climax to act 3, the ending, you’ve got a clear point to write toward. Many writers advocate developing a story backward from the ending.

But it’s not just about the climax of act 3. Secret writer knowledge: “the climax” is fractal in nature, appearing at every level of story, whether you zoom way out and just look at the 3 acts grouped together, or zoom way in to a single dialogue exchange.

Of course, you don’t need to have all the climatic moments of every dialogue exchange worked out to get a healthy story plant, but the more climax moments you note down, the more the high-notes of the story make themselves visible.

Having a bunch of climaxes in hand and assessing they are good, highly entertaining points, is the fertilizer of a strong, vigorous story plant. In contrast, if you don’t have your climaxes, you don’t really know where the story is going OR how it’s getting there. This can lead to a lot of unnecessary editing or worse, a boring story.

Character Costumes and Designs

NO. This really doesn’t matter.

Far too many writers put emphasis on these visual elements. I think it’s mainly an ego thing because they spend so much time imagining their characters, when they break them down in a high level of visual detail or even get an artist to illustrate some character designs, they feel that this is a major story hurdle.

It isn’t.

Character design has very little to do with story viability. At the early stages for story development, spending time on visualizations is really wasted time… this approach guarantees your story plant will take longer to germinate.


When you identify these handful of elements in your story… your seedling is healthy and strong, and will likely explode in growth if you give it further attention and nurturing. If your stories don’t include these elements, keep the temperature up and the grow lights on. Most of all, don’t be afraid to get multiple seeds germinating at once–when some story plants grow like gang busters, seemingly all on their own, those are often the best producing story plants!▪

About the Author —
Newcomer or veteran writer, if you’re working on a project that needs commercial success, Nick urges to you read this intro article.
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, Amazon, and in select stores around the U.S.