You Need Only Four Words to Start a Novel

The other morning I went downstairs to eat breakfast and my wife had left a book open on the table.  It was turned to a page which described a quick way to start a novel.

The idea centers around picking four words at random and using them to organize the book.  For example, today I am choosing the following four word:  team, need, possibility, time.  I could have brainstormed them, but I just picked them out of the local newspaper instead.

Having chosen the words, I can now organize my novel according to four key factors.

Setting : Team

Characters: Need

Story: Possibility

Ending:  Time

Here is a proposed summary of a novel using the four words:  A major league baseball team is really bad. Its players stink. The management decides to bring in new talent, but the players ask for one more chance to improve.  The management is skeptical, but the players convince them to hire a well known former player who has the right work ethic to train them.  The players begin to improve and the management begins to see the possibility of winning with its current team.  Over time, the team improves so much that it wins the pennant and goes to the World Series.

Cal Ripken would be a good model for a character who teaches bad baseball players how to play the game.

Sounds like a movie that’s already been done, right (think “Bad News Bear”, “Angels in the Outfield”,)?  So I would probably have to go back to the drawing board and tweak the story to make it different from these movies somehow.

Still, the method seems to be a good way to kickststart an idea,  I  liked it enough to talk about what is needed to make a good novel in my university class yesterday.  I tried to emphasize to them that the  end is really important because if there are loose threads that aren’t resolved, then they may not like the novel we are going to read. So it was a good way to help them evaluate what they read.

Source: Edward De Bono, author of “Lateral Thinking”


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