I'm trying to write a story about a middle school boy, but I struggle with finding the right format and ending. I think I want it to tell the story in the form of a diary, but it's not ending up how I would like it. It looks wonky and whenever I begin to write I cannot come up with ideas.

There are a few ingredients to the story that I already have:

  1. He lives with his mother and sister
  2. He doesn't like his dad
  3. My book will take place over the span of roughly 3 years
  4. He will be forced to live with his dad at some point
  5. It takes place in the fictional city of Kollapsie, MT, USA
  6. He goes to an all boys private school

I still need names, for example for his sister, but most of all I don't know what I really want for this story really.

3 Answers 3


Broadly, I have two types of writing experiences:

  1. Ones where I know exactly how I want the format to be, POV, prose, etc...
  2. Ones where I just have an idea I'm excited about, but I'm unsure of the format.

When I get stuck in the second type, I experiment. I'll just sit and free write in a few different styles until the narrative style and voice feel right to me.

Some exercises you can try, all of which you might end up throwing away (and that's okay!):

  • Write a scene from this character's point of view in 1st person.
  • Write a scene from this character's point of view in 3rd person.
  • Write a scene about this character from another person's point of view in 3rd person.
  • Write a fake article about this character as if written by a reporter.
  • Write a scene where someone finds a journal entry written by this character.

If you find one that feels right, then that's awesome. If not, it might be sign that either you haven't quite nailed down your main character's voice, or that you just need more practice writing in the style you want.

If you determine the latter, I suggest reading more books that are written in the style you're targeting to get a feel for how the narrative flow goes.


My approach, when I have an idea but no story, is twofold:

First of all, I continually collect all ideas that come to my mind. I carry around a small notebook and pen everywhere I go. Periodically I transfer those ideas to my computer. As I do so, I order the ideas into different files that represent the stories they belong to. That way, several stories continually grow both in my mind and on my computer, and I always have several that are ready to be written. This is a long-term approach, of course.

When I want to write a story and parts of it are still missing, I search for inspiration specifically for this story. What I do is google terms from my collected ideas, looking for everything that somehow relates to it and that catches my attention. This can be news, movies, novels, research, etc. Parallel to this research process, I take long walks (which habitually stimulate my idea generation) and think about all the parts that I already have. I "daydream" freely about characters, their relations and goals, locations, events, and so on. In short, what I do is put in story-related information into my brain and give my brain (or specifically, my subconscious) both the time and the freedom to do with that information whatever it wants. Eventually and inevitably a story will slowly begin to congeal and I sit down and start to outline it.


Because you're so early on in the development of your story, I'm going to suggest you do a brain dump and get every minute detail that is going to peeve you figured out.

Now, I know this seems super overwhelming, but I'm talking about the details that you can't move forward without--i.e. character names, plot development, etc.

Use whatever medium works best for creativity (paper, computer, voice memos, phone, etc.) and get all those details down. If you're having trouble with coming up with those names and details, I suggest using word generators (they're more helpful than you think, and you can customize the output to fit your needs).

After you have all those city names, character names, and plot lines figured out, just start free writing. You can always go back and edit!

Happy writing!

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