inspiration

How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

 

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon I thought now would be a great time to talk about how I come up with a Novel Idea. Get it. ;)  If you were wanting to participate in NaNoWriMo or simply wanting to start writing fiction in general but don’t know where to start I hope this helps! With the disclaimer that what works for me may not work for you. Feel free to take away what you like from my methods.

 

Step 1: Story Concept.

It always starts here for me. It usually comes to me randomly when I’m driving somewhere or while I’m in the shower. You know, doing mindless stuff, like when I’m at work.  It’s the question that drives us. “What if?”  For example: What if your planet was destroyed? What if you found out you were royalty? What if you lost something so valuable you would do anything to get it back?  

From here I start answering the question and other questions that it incites.  Almost like reverse engineering a story. What if your planet was destroyed? Well that tells me you must not have been on that planet. Why weren't you on the plant? (Maybe you’re an astronaut or you were vacationing on Neptune.) How were you not on the planet? (Mission to repair spacey type telescope or Space cruise liner.) Who destroyed the planet? (Natural disaster or pissed alien race.) Why was the planet destroyed? (Maybe those aliens were having a really bad week.) How will you now survive?

Keep the Q and A going. Keep what you like and toss what you don’t. Eventually a story concept will emerge and even a very, very rough outline.

 

Step 2: Characters.

Sometimes my concept and my characters come to me at the same time, sometimes they don’t. After you have your concept you can ask yourself; what kind of person would be in this situation?  How do they handle the situation? Are they funny? Are they serious?

There are hundreds of Character building lists on line. So I’m not going to get too crazy in depth with this section. Basically I flesh out my main Character then ask; who is their support system? Family? Best friend? Significant other? Then I have my secondary characters.  

Then time for what might be the most fun part. Who is making my hero’s life harder? My protagonist! Everyone loves a good bad guy these days.

 

Step 3: Building a Strong Outline.

So the world of writers boils down to two types of writers. Planners and Pantsers. I’m, (if you couldn’t already tell) a planner. Pantsers like to make it up as they go. Don’t get me wrong making it up as you go can be freeing but… every time I have tried this it’s like looking up to find out you're in the middle of a field miles from anything. Where’s my plot? It’s just not for me. So planner that I am, I start working an outline.

The setup: In which I do just that, introduce my character, tell ya a bit about their life. Right before a change it all.

The Trigger: Which is the event that sets the story in motion. (Boom your planet gets destroyed!)

The Midpoint: Now you throw rocks at your character. (Plot point rocks that is) Conflict, conflict, conflict!

Rising acting: Time to start solving some of your small problems and giving your character much bigger ones. All leading up to…..

The Climax: When your story reaches its crescendo. It all gets as bad as it can get and then you figure out how to fix it.

The Resolution: Where this all ends up after the conflict is over.

That’s all crazy overly simplified but that’s how I start simple. From these simple points we can build them into a lot-o-plot!

 

Step 4: Conflict!

After my outline I have to work out what the conflicts will be. I generally like things to be easy so I have to push myself to make life harder for my Characters. Sure the overall conflict of my story is there, but I have to work to figure out what rocks I will throw at my hero.

 

Step 5: Resolution.

The resolution, as I previously mentioned, is where everything ends up when the conflict is over. I’m going to so real and tell you this is my weakness. It’s always the hardest part for me. Nothing like having a story with no idea how you want to end. I usually come up with 3-7 options and stare at them for un undetermined amount of time.

So my advice to you and myself is this. Come up with lots of options. Stare at them for an undetermined amount of time. Then start the process of elimination. Cut the ones you know you don’t like. Cut anything that’s overly cliché. Till you’re left with only the top contenders. If you still don’t know, this is the time having a writer friend can really come in handy. They really don’t have to be a writer but having someone to bounce ideas off of can help you in your decision making process. Who knows, something they say might even inspire you to have a totally different ending than you thought. I’m, of course, not saying take someone else's idea. I’m just saying you don’t have to be alone.

And remember if at the end of your story you blame aliens in a story that had nothing to do with aliens till that point or you end it with a variation of “and then they woke up.” expect your readers to find you and punch you in the throat.

 

After those 5 Steps it’s all about putting in the work. Choosing to work on your story and write instead of watching Netflix or browsing Pinterest. Honestly this is really and truly the hardest part. Coming up with the ideas can but so exciting and invigorating that when the time to write comes it’s a snooze fest. Writing is a rollercoaster. The downs come very suddenly and the ups can be a long arduous climb. But at the end you have an amazing experience to look back on and hopefully a first draft.   

Things I’m Doing When I Should be Writing!

Things I’m doing when I should be Writing!

  • Napping
  • Watching Battlestar Galactica
  • Reading books (Written by people much more talented than me.)
  • Pinning tattoos I’ll never get on Pinterest.
  • Pinning EVERYTHING on Pinterest.
  • Forcing my dog to cuddle me. (Love me!)
  • Fantasizing about my dream job.
  • Napping
  • Working over time at my real job. (Gross)
  • Staring at my computer screen blankly.
  • Looking up random greek mythology.
  • Daydreaming myself into adventures instead of my characters.
  • Wondering how my brain got so disorganized (Who's in charge here?!)
  • Napping  

                 So it looks like I need to try harder to schedule my writing time. I should also start going to bed sooner apparently. With my new work schedule it’s safe to say I have been a bit thrown off my writing game. Not to worry I’ll be making a comeback, just need to focus more. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but so are a lot of things I have done. Fiction Friday will be a day late. I know, Friday is right there in the title, sorry. Sometimes life is exhausting.

May's Marvelous Manuscript Monday

May Progress Report

 

May is over in just a few days and my current word count is just south of 35,000 words! That means I am almost to my 40,000 word halfway point. When I say it that way I feel kinda like a badass. I’m also FINALLY done with my first person to third person point of view conversion which I should have finished doing around a month ago. So when I say it like that I feel, not so accomplished, but I’m not gonna let it get me down.

I’m also on track with my book reading goals. Man am I crushing it! So far 2016 might end up being my most gratifying year to date, when it comes to personal growth and accomplishment. We still have half the year to go but I’m confident it’s only going to get better. You might have noticed my good mood and that’s probably heavily influenced by the fact I don’t have to go back to my day job for another week. Yippy! The rest of my week will be filled with reading, writing, and the less enjoyable yard work. (It’ll be worth it, I repeat to myself over and over.)  I’m hoping to get another 5,000 words on my manuscript to get me to that 40,000 word halfway point. The only thing that keeps distracting me… my own ideas.

It’s hard to focus on just one story when your brain is constantly coming up with new ones. Other than my current manuscript, which will be the first in a three book series, I have three other unrelated story concept I am itching to put on paper. One post apocalyptic adventure of rescue, one science fiction and fantasy fusion tale and one romance turned grim murder mystery. If only I could write them as fast as I come up with them. My brain is starting to feel a little overheated just thinking about it all.

One goal at a time is what I’ll be sticking to. Finish my current work in progress by November 1st. If I can finish early then I can start working on another story. In fact maybe that will act as more motivation. Or maybe Bilbo said it best and I’ll end up feeling thin, stretched, like butter scraped over to much bread. We shall see, as it stands I’m feeling good about the coming June.

 

Also if you're interested in what I'm reading now or have been reading and how I feel about it, the best way to find out is to check out my Instagram account. @jamie_scifiohmy It's also a good place to see the most beautiful, sweetest, and smartest black lab that ever existed.  You've been warned.

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Getting to know a Character

Getting to Know a Character

Anyone that has even read a book or watched a movie can not deny one thing. We all like characters. We might not all like the same characters but we are all there for the same reason, we are interested in the characters. Whether you’re a villain loving hero hater (i.e. Siths, Death Eaters, Hydra members) or you’re the kind of person that roots for the home team (i.e. Avengers, Jedi Order, Justice League, or any protagonist hero really) .  We all want to know more about characters and how things turn out for them. We can all agree this is true, if you don’t, Well you’re lying mister.

We want to know the characters, then once we do they can often become like old friends to us. It’s the reason we always buy the next book in the series, reread old favorites, re-watch movies and binge watch season after season on netflix, it’s the characters. Getting to know characters is the best, when reading and writing.

If you love a character in a book you are totally invested in them by the end of that book. You get to know them as if they were a living breathing person. In fact sometimes we know them  better that we know real people.  Gasp! Because we have spent the time getting to know them because some awesome author spent the time to make that character.

As a writer knowing your character makes it easier to write in “their voice”.

“Their voice” meaning how or what they might say. It doesn't have to be words it can be just a reaction or a look. Knowing your character means knowing their personality and how they handle situations. Making it easy to believe that they are the ones reacting or speaking, not you as the writer. That’s the goal right? I know it’s my goal.

Loving your character can really help you when you’re writing. I always get excited when I know I’ll be writing a scene where one of them gets to be cheeky, clever or funny. It’s what drives me. The parts of the book that come along and tell you who the character is, these are pretty much the best parts. With every reaction and statement the writer is helping determine who that character is to the reader. That’s a lot of power as a writer. 

This is why short stories are hard for me, because it gives you so little time to get to know everyone. That’s probably why I have yet to write a Fiction Friday that I didn’t plan a continuation to in my head. Sorry it’s just too difficult.

Whether you're writing your hero or your villain make them their own person, everyone reacts differently to different situations. A book that is full of people with the same personality sounds really boring. I love my cast of character and I hope readers will too.

No NaNoWriMo for me.

No Camp Nanowrimo for Me

April is Camp Nanowrimo month. If you don’t know what this is, here’s a quick summary. A community of writers band together via the internet and support each other with the goal of each writer finishing an entire writing project start to finish with in the month of April. This is the spring Nanowrimo the sister to the original Nanowrimo that happens in the fall during National Novel Writing Month in November. See what they did there National Novel Writing Month, Nanowrimo, so clever.

I love the whole concept of Nanowrimo. I have even participated in the 2011 November Nanowrimo, and I failed miserably. Not even making it through half of my project. What an embarrassment. But I still think it’s a great idea and the support everyone brings each other is a wonderful help to motivate you through the monumental task of writing an enter book in one month.

However, I will not be participating in this April’s Nanowrimo and here's why. I know I will fail again. That’s not me not having the confidence or dedication, I just know I won’t have the time needed to get it done. I wish I did but with the full time job, my commitment to this blog, oh and of course it’s that time of year when we need to start up the yard work again, so it’s out of the realm of possibilities, the hours just aren't there.

I’m sticking to my plan, finish the first draft of my book by November 1st. That will set me up so I can then participate in the November Nanowrimo, yay! I already have a project in mind for that (Insert maniacal hand wringing here). I like to think this plan will simply help drive me in my goal to finish my first draft.

To all who are participating in this month's Nanowrimo, you’re awesome! You show that book who's boss! If you’ve never heard of Nanowrimo but it sounds like something you would be interested in, you can head over to https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in to get more information and sign up, it’s not too late.  I mean it’s a little late, but never too late to start living your dreams. Have an awesome April, writers!