July ,26 2014
Writing Wisdom #2: Getting Started
With it looking like the weather isn't going to be taking a turn for the better, it is the perfect time to sit down and start hashing out some ideas for future characters, settings, and plots for novels and novellas of the future : ) So I figured, another instalment of 'Writing Wisdom' was in order.
Even though I often find the research aspect of any literary adventure the most exciting, there are often a lot of things that need to be considered. If you like to historically base your work (like I have a tendency to do) then the amount of books and websites to screen can appear dauntingly endless if you are not one for research. In order to over come this barrier, the most important thing I always do (besides settle down with a cup of hot cocoa!) is to write a list. Yes, list making if your friend : )
I make a list of the types of questions that I believe need to be answered in order to get a handle on whatever character or universe I'm building.
So here is my go-to list of basic questions that can get the juices flowing on a writer's block day or on the start of day one when the idea is just starting to form. Some of them may seem silly or simple, but I always make sure I cover all angles, no matter how ridiculous it may seem : )
Novellette's Getting Started Tips
1. Is your protagonist male or female? What does your protagonist look like? How old are they? How did they end up in the situation they are in?
Even though this is the obvious starting point, it can often be the most difficult. Your main character is going to be with you for however long this journey is going to take, whether it be a few days or a number of years. I always want to make sure I have a firm grasp of what my character would say, what they would do, etc in situations that may not even occur in the novel. Besides, after some time it always feels like they're real anyway : ) That way I can get a real grasp for how their dialogue should sound and how to maintain consistency. If Jimmy has blue eyes in chapter one, then green eyes in chapter ten, something has gone wrong!
2. How does your protagonist (and other characters) die?
When I first told my sister that this is one of the most important questions I consider, she looked at me like I was from mars! It may seem odd to be considering the end of a character's life before they've even began, but I still think its an important step. Usually, whether a character dies in the novel or short story or not, I have a pre-destined plan for their demise. Morbid, I know. Again, I'm one of those writers who walks around daily with these characters on my mind so the more real they become to me, the more accurately I feel I portray them.
3. Is my antagonist a person?An event? A metaphysical force?
Knowing your antagonist is just as important as your protagonist. Like my high school teacher once told me, your villain does not even have to be a real person. As long as your character is facing a form of general conflict that is 'haunting' he or she in a sense, then your work in creating a villain is on its way!
4. What writing style will I be using when crafting this story? What genre will it be?
There are three basic writing styles of first, second, and third person. Third person (when the character's name is constantly viewed like: Dave walked to the store with Sally
) and first person (usually with a narrator who is a character in the story and appearing as: I walked to the store with Sally
) are the most common but only you will know which style you are most comfortable with.
The same applies for genre. One thing I often hear about my writing is that I have a darker tendency to my situations because I prefer the tragic in books to the happy. So when I write I tend to write tragedies. But if you are more comfortable with romances, mysteries, or horrors then go for it! Whatever feels right is what you should do : )
5. Why are you writing this novel, poem, short story, etc in the first place?
While at university, I have encountered many other writers in training and have heard their frustration with not being able to finish a story they've been doing. Not for lack of time or writer's block, but just out of inability to finish. That's where this last question comes into play. Are you writing because you have a general love of writing? Do you have a story in your head that keep you up at night? Been there a few times with that one : ) Or are you writing because you have to do it for a school project? Or because you want to make a few extra dollars? Once you understand why you're doing what you're doing then the pieces should fall together easier.