from Emily Bryan . . .
The Chatelaines have put our heads together and come up with some topics we think might interest our readers, many of whom are also aspiring writers. And the first one is How to Begin Writing a New Story.
Now, I've been writing seriously since 2001. My 8th book, STROKE OF GENIUS, will come out May 25th this year. You'd think I'd have this process down to a science, but no. Each cast of characters seems to take a different path to the forefront of my consciousness.
I can tell you one thing that definitely doesn't work for me--NaNoWriMo. I just tossed out 100 pages that were totally unusable. I'm not an organization freak, but I need a bit more structure that just shooting for a word count.
So I'm back to square one, looking for my next hero. Romance is character-driven fiction. I have to start with either the hero or the heroine because it's their story. I need to learn who they are and what they want more than their next breath before I can begin to tell you what happens. I can always devise ways for them not to get what they want for a while which pretty much takes care of plotting. But delivering a fully-actualized, robust character who breathes on his own . . . that has to happen on page one.
So here are the things I need to know about my H/h, even if no one else ever does.
Name ~ That seems like a no-brainer, but a name really sets a tone for a character. Cyril or Jake, which do you think will be the hero?
Physical Characteristics ~ This includes more than rippling muscles, hair and eye color. I furnish my character's closets with weapons and wardrobe as well. Someone said (wish I could tell you who) "It is well that there are no perfect people, for they would not have a friend in the world." Give your characters a few flaws and blind spots.
Family ~ Face it, we are all shaped by those people who first took care of us and taught us the world was a safe place. Or not. Same for a fictional character. A brief family tree, complete with branches for a few weird uncles is not a waste of time for an author. Where your character has come from influences where he's going.
World View ~ We all have a set of filters through which we view the world. They are our religious beliefs, political views, code of ethics, or sense of "ought-ness." Some of the most powerful stories ever written involve characters who've had to totally re-shape their pre-conceived ideas of how the world works.
Defining moment ~ We've all had them. They are forks in the road. Most of our decisions don't carry such weight but there are a few choices in every life that makes us who we are. Know what mile posts have come before for your character and make sure we see at least one defining moment between the pages of your story.
Driving need ~ If I've done all the rest of my homework, this is where the story actually begins. I need to identify the imbalance in my character's life, the whole in his soul that needs filling. This will give me his goal and the premise that will propel me 400 pages. It doesn't matter what the goal is, only that my character cares passionately about it. For example: I've never owned or wanted a BB gun, but I'm pulling for Ralphie all the way in A CHRISTMAS STORY because he wants it with such fervor.
For an example of a beginning, may I humbly suggest you give my FREE online novella a try? I just started this serial adventure January 1st and plan to add to it each month with help from my readers. Enjoy!
I'm always searching for new ways to improve my writing process, so I'm really looking forward to what the other Chatelaines have to share on this topic!
If you're a writer, how do you start your new stories? If you're a reader, can you think of a beginning that really reached out and grabbed your interest?
Friday, January 8, 2010
from Emily Bryan . . .