Generating Ideas for Writing - Starting with a Theme

How do you start writing if all you have is a theme? How do you make something that doesn't seem contrived and two-dimensional? Let's imagine that we want to write something about a dragon. Why a dragon? I saw a picture of one today at a bookstore. So . . . how would we do that? Let's find out.

Do we want the dragon to be a good character or a bad character? I don't know, and I don't want to decide right now. Either way the dragon has to have an intention. What should the dragon want?

A dragon defends something.

I feel like it makes sense to either have the dragon defending something or attacking something, and I feel like defending will help us to be more sympathetic towards the dragon, but what should the dragon be defending?

A dragon defends its nest.

Nest is good. Babies can be in nests. An animal can be very ferocious in defending its nest, and I understand that. What is the dragon defending its nest against? Let's add another character, with a colliding narrative. All of the characters are going to be characters you can understand, and even root for.

A dragon defends its nest against a group of people who are seeking shelter in a winter storm.

People seeking shelter in a place that another animal has already established itself. That is a real collision, but we need to have stronger motivations. The first moment you encounter a dragon you would just run right back out of that cave (I guess that is where I am making the nest). Would the dragon chase them? Then I really hate the dragon. That could work, but I don't want to go that direction.

A dragon defends its nest against a group of people who are seeking shelter in a winter storm. They are traveling through a mountain pass to reach their new home in the grasslands on the other side. They decided to travel in the early spring because of the financial hardship they have been facing. They need a new start. The strong heads of the family, Nathan and Elizabeth, wanted a better life for their son Jackson, but they failed him. Now they have promised him that they will do anything to make sure that his three year old daughter Susan does have that better life. Susan's mother, Martha, is strong willed and initially resisted the move away from her family, but now she is the most enthusiastic because she is pregnant again and doesn't want to relive the life of her parents. They were attempting to travel light and fast, Nathan had been a scout in the military. With a young child and a pregnant woman they desperately need shelter for the night. As they push further back into the cave to get away from the wind they find they are not alone. To venture out into the storm is to freeze to death, to stay is risk an encounter with the unknown.

This seems decent. Now that I am fleshing it out a little bit I am not so sure that I really want to explore the subject of dragons. Maybe I will play with the concept more in the future. Maybe I will explore slightly more realistic subjects. You can join me in the journey at


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