How to Find Problems In Your Story Idea Before Writing

Have you ever been 200 pages into writing and suddenly found a massive problem with your story? When you realize this, it’s a difficult decision between fixing the problem and keeping the writing you’ve already put so much into.

In order to prevent this unfortunate predicament, it’s crucial to identify challenges or problems in your premise before you start writing. Once you identify these problems, you have to develop a strategy to tackle the issues and challenges embedded in your story idea. If you ignore these problems and challenges, your audience will find them for you, and by then, it will be too late.

Here are some techniques I use to identify 3 types of problems and challenges within my premises, as well as strategies to address them.

1. Problems and challenges embedded in your premise:

Here is a hypothetical that will help reveal problems and challenges in your story ideas: This is a hypothetical scenario I use to let my brain find problems and challenges in my story ideas.

Imagine the following: A friend of yours walks up to you and tells you that they just read a story. They tell you what this story is about, and it just so happens that they tell you the same premise of your story. However, they also let you know that they thought the story was terrible, the worst thing they've ever read.

Having only the story premise in mind, why would you assume that story was terrible? By putting yourself in this hypothetical scenario, your brain will start coming up with answers to this question. The answers you come up with are precisely the first story challenges and problems you will have to deal with before you start writing.

Here's an example: Let's say you're writing a story about an agreeable nurse who starts venting her resentments by sabotaging medical operations, killing patients, and becoming a monster. That's your premise. Your friend tells you they read a novel with the same premise, and it was terrible.

Why would it be terrible? Maybe it gets too gory and relies too much on shock value— and it has no substance. Perhaps the character is so evil that she becomes an unredeemable cardboard villain who’s impossible to relate to. Maybe it's too similar to a story that already exists, and it feels unoriginal.

After you find these problems, you should strategize ways to prevent them from happening in your story. Maybe you need to balance the character's inner conflict of values with the story's shock value, so it doesn't feel like senseless gore. Perhaps you need to make the nurse more relatable by having her try all sorts of methods to cope with her resentment before she starts going down this dark path. Whatever other strategies you might find, make those strategies part of the way you tell your story, from your first outline to the final draft.

2. Clichés

It's almost impossible, especially in certain genres, to not reuse tropes or employ clichés.

A cliché is a timeworn scene, situation, or plot device in a work of fiction. The problem with clichés is that they give the story a sense of unoriginality.

To find clichés, you first must identify your story's genre (sometimes a story can be told with two or more genres). Once you have the genre, study it, read the classics and read the most recent works on that genre to find what genre tropes may be overused y. A quick Google search on the clichés of your genre might give you an insight into what other communities are tired of reading within the genre.

Let’s suppose that you discover that your premise implements the prophecy trope to justify how the hero is special and how they will defeat the villain in the story. What strategies can you adopt to address this cliché?

  1. Change the cliché: Use another device to reveal the same information to the reader. You could write your story in such a way that removes the prophecy troupe and have the hero defeat the opponent by proving throughout the story why their values are superior to the villains.

  2. Flip the cliché: Use the cliché to set an expectation and then twist the outcome to surprise the reader. You coul