I love the start of a new book.
Coming up with an idea. Plotting the scenes. Discovering the characters. Uncovering a story with a life of its own.
It sounds almost cliché to say that the characters made me do it. They grew a mind of their own over the course of the book.
But it’s true.
Sometimes when you create a strong enough character, they take over the story in ways that you didn’t imagine.
I had a character in my book that I initially was going to kill off. He was a bad guy after all, and in fiction, bad guys always get punished.
But he didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to kill him off, at least not yet.
So the story twisted in a way that explained his back story, he was still bad but he had redeeming qualities that were worthwhile keeping him in the series.
As crazy as it sounds, I’m looking forward to getting to know him better throughout the next few books in the series.
And only the other day, a reader and dear friend of mine, randomly commented about how she wants to know more about this particular character and can see his storyline involving. That tells me that I made the right decision in keeping him alive.
Whilst I like a book with good characters, I need the plot to engage me even more. But really, characters and plot will be intertwined.
When I start writing a new book I love the process of plotting.
During the plotting stage, you have the opportunity to create scenes, events, and situations for your characters to dig themselves out of. Plotting can also assist with character development.
What’s your characters primary goal?
Come up with ten obstacles that can get in their way.
For example, let’s say your character’s goal is to be left alone to lead a life of misery and self-loathing for stupid misdeeds of their past. What obstacles could get in their way?
– A squatter resides in the house for winter
– They come across a needy mother and baby in front of their building
– Witness an attack and they have to stop, therefore the person they saved wants to repay them and doesn’t leave them alone
– Someone is looking for them
– They get kidnapped by a lonely talkative villain
– And so on, and so on….
What’s your characters secondary goal?
Come up with another ten obstacles that could get in your characters way?
Elaborate on the obstacles.
Think about the different ways your character(s) would react.
In the example of where they come across a needy mother and her child. Initially they could ignore them (annoyance), then they leave some food or a blanket for them to make themselves feel better (guilt), they might be annoyed at first but then they don’t see the mother and child in a while (develop worry, concern), and realise that they don’t want to live alone and the human bond is important and they feel they must help them (redemption) and they fall in love (resolution). I think I just accidentally created the skeleton for a potential romance story.
Just the information alone poses several questions.
The main character.
Who is he? Why does he want to be alone? Why does he feel as if he needs redemption?
The mother and child.
Where did they come from? What/Who are they running from? Why did they end up there?
What if the situation was reversed where it was a father and son squatting in the building where a rich business woman lives and takes notice. What sort of conflicts and subplots could arise from that?
There are so many possibilities. The world is your oyster. You do with it what you please.
That’s what makes plotting so much fun!
Now, I would not say that there’s a book in that idea. There might be. But I do know there’s a kernel of an idea, an outline of a story that can be tweaked, further plotted and expanded to create a story that is novel worthy.
There’s still a lot of work ahead but that’s how simple plotting is.
When you come up with your story idea, add to it by brainstorming at least ten obstacles that could get in your characters way in achieving their goal. You won’t use them all, but the activity will get you thinking outside the box. Often the first two or three are the more obvious options, it’s only after about five that your creative well starts overflowing with more interesting ideas.
But please don’t get stuck with trying to come up with an original idea.
It’s near impossible.
Whatever ideas you come up with, they are going to have your slant on them. We all have different experiences in life. Even brother and sister living in the same family can have a completely different perception of what life was like in the home even though they shared the same environment.
It’s the same with writing, whilst it’s hard to come up with an idea that hasn’t been done to death already, you can use an old idea and make it new again by adding your personal touch to it.
When thinking about your plot consider not just the characters in it but also the setting, the emotions, the theme and the weather.
How would your plot change if your characters occupation, address, or age changed? A young college student will have completely different experiences, expectations, and realities than a forty-five-year-old male going through a divorce.
The little details about your characters lives can colour your plot in many ways.
That’s just one of the things that makes plotting so much fun – you can find out so much more about your characters.
In the end, your plot and characters will be intertwined intricately without you realising. At other times you are going to have work extra hard to get the plot and characters to complement each other.
Just remember to enjoy the process. Writing books is fun. Don’t stress too much over the details until you’ve written your first draft at the very least.
Go crazy with your plot ideas, let go of your inhibitions, and just write whatever comes to mind, no matter how crazy it seems. It’s your story, see what you can make of it.