Here is a little something taken from the manufacturing world. (RCCA).
Root Cause Corrective Analysis, is a methodology to find the base level of an event. For example, you walk outside and see your car has been damaged. RCCA leads us to ask why. Why is the car damaged, a tree limb fell on it. We then ask why did the tree limb fall on the car, the tree limb broke away from the tree. (yes this seems silly, bear with me) We ask why did the tree limb break away, lightning stuck it. (you guessed it) Why did lightning strike the tree limb, it was the highest point during the storm, and so on.
There are several things we begin to see from this example, one – we can take the Why’s even further, two – we begin to see a story, three – even though this example is silly and basic we can apply the methodology too much more complex situations. Let’s say the Civil War or in the case of a fantasy novel the rebellion of peasant farmers. Perhaps the economic collapse of 2020 is more your style.
The RCCA methodology can be applied for diving deeper into story creation as, it will give you the necessary path from the root of the problem combined with any contributing factors (things that by themselves would not have caused the problem) through to the current situation.
How this applies to creative writing. Let’s say your stuck trying figure out where to start. Pick a problem or catastrophe within your genre. For me I choose a fictional headline “International space station explodes”. I apply RCCA to figure out the steps that lead to the explosion. There may be more than one reason it exploded, including but not limited to deliberate detonation. As I dive deeper into the causes of the problem or catastrophe I can begin to piece together the whole picture. I fill the gaps with the action bits of the story or the drama depending on the overall theme. From here it is rinse and repeat until your story is complete.
Details, don’t forget the details. Have fun chasing some leads the questions present. As to the actual starting of the story, mine begins here.
“The alarm klaxons scream as one bulkhead after another slams down into locked position. Several life pods are jettisoned off the port side followed by several from the starboard.”
I took the news headline, chased down some Why’s and when I had a good idea of how to begin, I did. I chose an action portion to hook the reader. It is not the absolute beginning of the problem nor is it the explosion itself. This allows me to move forward or backward through the events rather than starting with the root cause of the explosion and working in a straight line collecting details until the eventual explosion. It also leaves me room to adjust the story.
RCCA is a great problem solver. I encourage you to give it a try. I would encourage you to also check out this article for more ideas to combat writer’s block.