X is for (E)xperimentation

Yes, I’m cheating a little. I didn’t really feel like writing about x-rays or xylophones.

I think that experimentation is key to crafting compelling and marketable stories around unique ideas. And even though the author may be dealing with a fictitious world, there is much that can be borrowed from the scientific method and applied to the creative writing process.

  1. Ask a question

Authors must ask many questions concerning the characters and worlds they are attempting to create. While those answers are subject to revision, they must serve and strengthen the story. The answers that the author chooses must also hold up to public scrutiny.

  1. Do background research

This is absolutely beneficial if the story calls for it. Maybe your protagonist is a farmer. Is the author already uniquely qualified to write (authentically) about farmers? Maybe he grew up on a farm, or his farmer grandparents have regaled him with tales of crops and livestock since he was an infant. If not, research will help to fill the knowledge gap and lend credibility to the created voice.

  1. Construct a hypothesis

I think this is an important step when deciding on a story for that early idea. It’s part of the question and answer process. Let’s say I’m going to write that story about a farmer, and I’d like to incorporate a magical cow. The first question I’d ask myself is how did my farmer get his magical cow? My initial answer (which I’ll call my “hypothesis” until I’m certain that the explanation fits perfectly into the finished story) could be that one day, as my farmer was wandering through a strange barren field, he stumbled upon a lone cow. Spooky!

  1. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment

The “experiment” is writing the story. The story results from the initial idea, and the chosen answers for a series of questions sparked by that idea. Those answers are arranged in an order that makes sense. As answers are decided on for initial questions (how’d my farmer discover his magical cow?), more questions emerge (when did my farmer realize his cow was different?), Where certain answers aren’t fitting well, changes and fine tuning is required.

  1. Analyze your data and draw a conclusion

Your data is your rough draft. Your analysis is the personal and peer review process. Your conclusion will be one of two: It works! Or It doesn’t work, yet! When it doesn’t work, it’s time to adjust the experiment!

  1. Communicate your results

Once you’ve finally reached the ‘It works!’ conclusion, submit it!

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