How to Incubate Your Story Ideas

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by Carmen Peone

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. ~Proverbs 16:3 

 Every story starts with a spark—an idea 

And when we commit our writing to the Lord, He will bless it.  

Sometimes all we have is the openinga character, an event, or a locationbut we don’t know where the story will go from there, or vice versa 

So, we have an idea. What now? 

Commit Your Ideas on Paper and in Prayer  

Start by stating what your book is about in twenty-six words or less. Write this down and memorize it because it is the pitch that will sell your book to editors or agents, bookstores, and potential readers. 

For my True to Heart trilogy, my twenty-one words were: One girl horse races her way out of cultural strongholds to be the first female Indian to own a horse ranch.  

For me location, the Colville Reservation, was my opening because it is where I live. The protagonist, Spupaleena in the mid-1800s, emerged as I prayed and listened to God’s direction. 

The more I prayed and turned my plans over to the Lordthe more guidance He gave me. When it came time to pre-write, ideas flowed out of me like a mountain creek 

I made a list of what I had already known from living on the reservation: Arrow Lakes language, culture, and customs 

Then made a list of additional research needed for authenticity.  

Landscape would be different in the nineteenth century, as would towns, forts, customs, and language.  

I then created character sketches for each major player, listing name, age, physical descriptions, personality, likes and dislikes, family, strengths and weaknesses, desires, fears, interests, and anything else that would complete their backstories 

From there, chose a story goal for each book and the seriesthe one thing my character needed mostwin horse races and own a ranch. I then came up with a list of obstacles that would block Spupaleena from reaching her story goalObstacles like anger, jealous bullies; losing horse races; injury to human and horses; death threats; and a meddling father with strict cultural expectations.  

I needed enough barriers to keep tension and conflict on every page.    

Spupaleena had to be strong and determined enough to achieve her goals by persevering, trusting, racing amid doubt and danger, and believing in herself and who God created her to be.  

She needed to break free.  

To develop the storyline, I… 

  • Began with a hook that showed my protagonist, Spupaleena, experiencing an everyday conflict, one that highlighted an essential frustration, fear, or flaw.  
  • Chose an inciting incident, the moment that changed everything for Spupaleena, forcing her outside the comforts of her known world and did so within the first forty pages. 
  • Picked the first plot point that happened when Spupaleena first began chasing her story goal.  
  • Thought about, listed, and chose the midpoint of the story. It needed to offer a significant conflict occurring between Spupaleena and her antagonist that forever changed her journey and had a huge emotional impact on her life and the reader’s experience. (Your antagonist may be a force.) 
  • Decided on the climax of the story. This is the final and most intense conflict that occurred between Spupaleena and her antagonists. 
  • Chose a resolution or ending that completed Spupaleena‘s journey, whether she accomplished her goals or not.  

I worked through this process for each book and the overall trilogy. 

Once all the pre-writing was complete, it was time to write the story. With God leading the expedition

About the Author:

Carmen PeoneCarmen Peone has lived in Northeast Washington and on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation since 1988. She had worked with a Tribal Elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes Language and various cultural traditions. She owns and trains her horses and competes in local Extreme Challenge and Mountain Trail competitions. With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. With the love of history and western woman lifestyle, she brings stories of hope, family, relationships, and faith to her novels.

These books were a labor of love, especially the second edition of the True to Heart Trilogy. Thank you to my cover model, Shayna Palmanteer of the Colville Confederated Tribes, for your willingness to be a part of this adventure. Visit my website for information on the workbooks that go along with my young adult books at

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