You Need a Story Idea and You Can’t Think of a Thing, part 2
Last post I talked about using current problems (global problems) in your story. But your characters have problems. Problems that were of great concern during the character time and place. In the 1800s there were concerns about over population. The air in London was so bad it would kill people (do we ever learn?). Disease outbreaks, germ theory was just being developed and some people didn’t believe it and even fought against the theory. War was always a worry. Taxes were always increasing, there are two things that are certain in life, death and tax increases.
Your characters are going to have strong feeling about these problems. She’s going to be worried about robber barons, thieves, and upraising such as Poncho Viva. We call them black swan events. They called them life.
Research the history of the time period. If there is a war going on your character will know about it and talk about it. It will cause price increases. It will offer an opportunity for your character to invent something to help in the war, and make her a lot of money in the process. Your character may even volunteer for the army or navy. What would happen if your character was refused to be let in the army? Was she the wrong culture, wrong social status or to high a social status. We don’t let titled ladies in the army. Your type can only be a shoe shiner in this army. That’s a personal conflict. Something your character could rebel against.
The weapon to end all wars, that your character invented, could be squashed by the government. Like the pope tried to suppress the cross bow. This could happen even if the other side was already or about to use the same or similar weapon. Gentlemen don’t fight like that.
Make a problem of the time period a major conflict of your story. Come up with a new way to solve the problem and look for unintended consequences cause by this new solution.
A new take on an old problem will save a lot of effort on trying to think up an original conflict.
Don’t forget that whole work forces were being displaced by new inventions, in a few weeks. There was no unemployment insurance in the 1800s. People facing starvation can do desperate things.
Real problems make real good stories.
Stay strong, write on, go study history and repeat it.
Professor Hyram Voltage
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