This is the second blog in an ongoing series of designing a story using my writing process so others can get an indepth look of the process in action. As before, this process works for me. If you find something you like, use it. I won’t even ask for credit.
Previously we narrowed down what I wanted to write a story about: Space Marines! My core idea has me giddy with excitment, but what kind of story will I tell? There are a lot of different stories that can be told involving marines, from the downright silly to politically-laced drama to high action heroism and everything inbetween. There are a lot of ways to tell stories about a bunch of military guys doing their thing, I just need to figure out what kind of story I want to tell.
Based on what I like to write, I think that this story will be an action/suspense story. With inspirations from Aliens, Starship Troopers, Wing Commander, Avatar, Act of Valor, Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Battle: Los Angeles, Battleship, ID4 (and I could probably go on forever with movies I like involving aliens and/or the military), I have a lot of material to pull from to make my story great.
The first step in getting started is to write the hook for my story. This is an evolution of my Space Marine idea into what I generally want the story to be. Since I’ve decided to do action and suspense in a space setting, I need to determine what sort of situations would invoke those feelings right from the start. With space, one of the most frightening things to imagine is being out in deep space with no one able to help you. Outer space is a vast place, even if one is using faster-than-light travel, and gives a sense of isolation to the situation at hand. This is perfect for adding suspense to a story.
If the story will be in the far reaches of civilized space, why would our marines go there? No one goes on vacation to the fringes of space to relax from a hard day’s work at the office. We want action in our story, and this is a military based story, so naturally our Marines will be sent out to deep space on a mission of some kind.
What kind of mission is the next step in figuring out our hook. My first thought is to do a wartime mission, but that kind of takes away from the suspense and leans more on the action. The aftermath of a war typically sees a big draw down on missions since there is no more enemy so that really doesn’t help either. That leaves us with a cold war setting which does not have a lot of high action war missions, but it does have more covert and limited engagements between enemies.
All together, I have determined that I like marines in deep space doing a covert mission during a cold war with an enemy. Well, that isn’t a great hook, but it is a start. What kind of marines? Well, since this is covert mission, a group of special forces marines would be called in to handle the situation. That now also gives me some nice things to play with in terms of tactics and coolness factor.
Now we have a team of special forces marines on a covert mission during a cold war with an enemy. Since we are writing a suspense story, lets make the enemy unknown and/or uncertain. Since we are doing a covert mission, perhaps the marines are going to a setting of a top secret base that has lost contact with Earth will fit the bill. All of that sounds great, but it is too much information for a hook. Once we condense that down, our special forces marines are doing a cover mission to investigate a lost military base.
Our hook needs to be short and to the point, but not give really anything away. It should be something that draws the reader in out of curiousity. Based on everything from above, the story I’m going to write will use the following hook:
“A team of special forces Confed marines investigates a distress signal on the fringes of space.”