From Warren Ellis:

Someone just wrote to me with the following question:

The problem I encounter every single time I try to write something is that I have a brilliant idea, but I have absolutely no clue as to how to make a proper story out of it. Bits and pieces will come to mind, but finding the whole story is typically a feat… do you know of a way to overcome this issue?

And this was my very quick response, which it occurs to me might be worth sharing, as one avenue (of many) that can be taken to solve this:

Identify a character in your idea.

1) What does that character WANT?

2) What does that character need to do to GET what they want?

3) What are they prepared to DO to get what they want?

Superman wants to save the world, will go through a quest to save the world, and will, if need be, sacrifice himself to save the world. (Crap example, but you see where I’m going.)

Hannibal Lector wants to be free to live in the way he wants, needs to arrange people and incidents in such a way that he can escape his current circumstances, and will kill and eat anybody he feels like in order to be free. (The difference between a “hero” and a “villain” is often the ruthlessness and extremity they’re prepared to go to in order to achieve what they want.)

(Also, the villain is rarely the villain in their own mind. Norman Osborn from THUNDERBOLTS/SIEGE is a good example of a villain who is plainly the hero of his own story. Another good example is one of my favourite villains, the deluded, vicious Janetty from Steven Grant & Vince Giarrano’s BADLANDS)

It’s a really simple way to discover a rough one-two-three structure that you can start to build on. You build on it by asking yourself what you can do to make 2) as difficult as possible for the characters.

Hope that helps someone.

Sticking this here so I don’t lose it.