Need story ideas, help.
I've had this story idea for a while now and I really want to write it. I have a general idea of how i want the turning points to look like in the future, I just can't seem to give the story a sense of direction of "how to get there". Any suggestions would be highly appreciated, and if you could tell me what weaknesses the story has right now and what would make it more solid that would be great. I'm also having trouble with a hook for chapter 1.
Genre: Psychological Horror, Drama, Slice of Life, some Comedy?
Themes: Suicide and Depression
Oregairu (Hikigaya for self-hating loner)
Hyouka (lazy but smart-ass protagonist)
Instant Bullet by Akasaka Aka (my most fav manga of all time!! The depression really cracks up after 10 chapters)
Premise: Hotaka is a college hikkikomori. He's been like since ever since he was stood up at a date (or publicly humiliatd? insert something very traumatic here).
He has no friends, he doesn't trust others, but somehow, he has a job. He works at a small, independent LN publishing company owned by three others: Kurai (bossy president and editor), Jun'ichi (jack-of-all-trades) and Asahina (illustrator who never shows her face and only interacts with them online, like Sagiri from Ero-manga Sensei).
Why he works at that company is because he has a small unique power that only those few people know of. He can 'talk' to stories. To be precise, he can see and talk to the one character that best represents a novel he just read. This is the "soul" of the story, so to speak. It's not always the protagonist, per se. It could be the witch in Snow White just as much as it could be Snow White herself. We'll call this 'Zel' for now.
Much like how not all children are born into the family they want, so too, not all characters are written into the stories they desire. The protagonist of a love story may want to star in a detective mystery instead, or vice versa. And much like how "Happy wife equals happy life", an unsatisfied zel is an unproductive zel. A zel that is not happy with itself makes it hard for readers to connect with the story. The emotional impact underperforms and becomes half-hearted.
That's where Hotaka's power comes in. He can 'see' the ghost of the story and figure out what it really wants. Even if he can't write like a pro and is only at fanfic level, he can give the zel a "feel" of what it's always been longing for. Even if it's just a small taste, the fact of experiencing it once is enough to turn any zel into a satisfied one.
And when a zel is happy, it becomes much more easier for readers to symphatize with the characters. Even a no name, garbage title nobody's heard of before, Hotaka can turn it into a bestseller overnight just by getting to know the zel better (guess this is like dating missions in Date a Live, where you have to figure out what issues/insecurities the spirit has).
That's his job.He works as the secret weapon that no other publishing company has.
Plot Twist & Backstory: It should be revealed in later volumes that the zel power is actually passed down from one person to another, and comes only to those who have no friends. The first owner is a loli named Himawari. She loved reading books from the bottom of her heart. That's why she got the power. She did not know how it worked though. If you don't appease a zel within a certain time period, they will disappear. She only thought of them as "friends" and not actual people who were in need of something. Driven by guilt, she passed it on.
She let go of it, and it was taken by a college student named Midori. Himawari tracked her down successfully and they studied the zel powers together. Midori was afflicted with Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. She sleeps most of the day and missed class a lot.
Enter Jun'ichi. He was a delinquent who got into a lot of fights before, but wanted to change himself. He thought a good place to start would be the also "friendless" Midori. He helped her with schoolwork, brought study notes, and also met Himawari. Together the three were like a happy family. Eventually Midori started getting better, became more outgoing and was even able to go to school. Midori fell in love with Jun'ichi.
But Jun'ichi still had conflicts. He was only putting on a mask of being kind. But he wasn't kind. He did not feel warm inside helping people out. Deep down he's still a delinquent.
Then one afternoon, he met thugs trying to get Kurai into a dark alley. He beat them up, and walks away thinking that Kurai would just be afraid of him as much as she is with them. But she pulls him back and somehow thanks him. This was the first time in his life that someone thanked him for beating someone up, the first time that he was acknowledged for what he did. And so, he fell in love with her on the spot, and felt that he wanted to be in the same social circle that she's in, no matter what it takes. Right now, he truly wanted to be kind.
Meanwhile, Kurai is also fighting her own inner demons. She'd always dreamt of becoming an editor in a big publishing company. She wanted it so much, even going so far as to run away from home when her parents didn't agree with it. But she couldn't produce results. She got depressed almost to the point of suicide.
It was then that Jun'ichi found out about Midori's zel powers. He begs her in secret to help Kurai. Himawari was against it. Midori agreed, but turned out unable to do so. She's helping the boy she loved get together with another woman, the stress simply rendered her unable to communicate with zel.
As a last ditch attempt, they do a zel transfer. And another student at the college, Hotaka, was the target. Midori stands him up on a date, he falls into deep depression and becomes a hikkikomori. Midori lets go of the power forever, and Hotaka awakens to the existence of Zel.
Unlike the two girls, Hotaka instantly realizes the true potential of this power. He goes into the convenience store that Kurai is working in, and every night, reads one obscure manga or light novel. Everytime he did that, the next day everyone would be recommending it to their friends, saying how could they have missed such a masterpiece.
Kurai is shocked by the pattern, and with Jun'ichi, follows Hotaka to his apartment, where they find shocking signs of self-harm. From one suicidal person to another, Kurai offers Hotaka to form a publishing company together, and try to live as strongly as possible. He agrees, and "Open Verse" company is established.
Midori has left town due to her guilt of driving Hotaka into a corner. Himawari joins Open Verse under the name "Asahina", known only by Jun'ichi, to watch and guide Hotaka as much as she could.
Most of the arcs should involve Hotaka getting out of his Hikkikomori phase, and realizing that he can't fully understand the zel's ambitions without understanding the author himself/herself.
For example, first arc (chapter 3 onwards) deals with Kurai forcing Hotaka and Jun'ichi to a sponsored vacation in Utsunomiya city. They have a fan, Vivi, who is the daughter of a popular hotsprings inn manager (free stay for a week), and she also wants to submit a story to them (2 birds with 1 stone).
Hotaka reads the story, finds the zel, Makura, weird, and uncovers a dark history regarding Vivi. There was once a boy who confessed to her, and she rejected him. She didn't mean any harm, of course, but the boy took it too deeply and committed suicide in the process. Ever since, Vivi was seen by her classmates as a murderer, and she was kicked out of a 4-girl rock band she was in.
Hotaka suspects Vivi is writing the novel because of her guilt of killing that boy, but soon realizes the mistake. Vivi wasn't guilty at all, far from that. The truth was, Vivi was "in love" the leader of the rock band she was in. She held feelings for another girl (OH SHIT!!), and she was already suffering enough internal conflict from that.
That's why, she could not, in good conscience, accept the boy's confession. But he killed himself, and that led to her being kicked out of the band. Even though she was just being honest to herself and just told him the truth, that led to the one person she loved hating her instead. What was she supposed to do in that situation?
Vivi felt trapped for a long time, and since she could not hate the boy, she hated herself. The arc ends in a culminating rooftop suicide talkdown where Hotaka tries to reason with her in, hopefully, what would be a Re:zero ep. 18 level of emotions.
I want things like these to be the focus on the arc. Negative feelings of being trapped, feeling unfulfilled, feeling like nobody needs you, etc... I find that these kinds of conflicts with your view on yourself, are far more interesting and emotional than just brute external conflicts (no money, being bullied, etc...)
Sample illustrations i've been making:
Link to a more complete summary:
You may find Brandon Sanderson's words of wisdom helpful. He is a great 'architect-style' fantasy writer who has written popular book series such as Mistborn. See: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH3mK1NZn9QqOSj3ObrP3xL8tEJQ12-vL and https://writingexcuses.com/
The idea of being able to speak to characters is very interesting and well worth writing. I hope this helps. I am not really a writer but imagery provided in your outline got my imagination flowing.
The following is how I would start it:
Hotaka is a broke college literature student moping on a train going to an Interview with a new start up light novel company called somename books.
He only got involved in literature in college because he was in love chasing his best friend with famous light novel author parents. She decided to follower her parents and took literature at College. Unfortunately, he chased her for years but never got the courage to ask her out. Last night their friendship was destroyed.
He only got this interview because it was a favour done by this best friend who father wrote the company's only hit novel. The night before his best friend told him that she met someone and is now engaged. She expected him to be happy but instead he was devastated resulting in a big fight breaking their friendship and throwing Hotaka into his current depressive funk.
Hotaka, barely interested in this interview, only went because his overbearing mother would of beat the crap out of him and turn him out of the house if he did not go. As he is scanning the company's hit novel for interview prep, lo and behold a Zel pops out.
I would then have the Zel provide his dissatisfaction in a humorous embarrassing way resulting in Hotaka blowing the interviewer away by providing the answer for the author's writer block that was preventing book 2 of their only hit novel.
In this way you establish that the protagonist is pathetic and give yourself some direction. He is pathetic because he is lazy and a coward w/o ambition. You also give the reason why he impressed enough to get the job and establish the existence of the Zel.
My impression from your post is that you want to write something but you are stuck on the idea and arcs, but have missed filling in your characters bios and motivations which ultimately gives the nitty gritty for your story direction.
I took your depression/loner/untrustworthy character desire and tried to think of what would make a person like that. That is how I came up with the starting idea. Since a character like that would be useless for most jobs, he needs some convincing reason to land it. (I answered the somehow he has a job to start the story) What naturally follows with the idea that he met a Zel making him of value to the company in the form of solving writers block for volume 2 of a hit novel. The best friends engagement was just to establish the protagonist as pathetic and possibly provide a thread for a future direction. As for the novel belonging to her father, another possible future direction.
A story is more than an outline arcs- it is the characters that make it. Start to outline your protagonist ( how they act and react, how they are feeling, parents, motivations, backstory etc). Give it enough detail to have a history like a real person but not so much depth that you lose yourself in it and don't write.
Once you got that, just start putting the scenes together. As you put the scenes together, continue to outline the people who your protagonists interact with to give the scenes direction. (Currently your outlines of his coworkers are shallow probably contributing to your writers block). With these histories in the back of your mind, the scenes to write should naturally pop in your head.
You may find that when you start writing, your outlined goes into a totally different direction because your original direction does not fit the character. That's okay. Sit back and reforcast.