So … being that my manuscript is finally finished (YEAH!), and is waiting to be discovered, I now have more time to do other stuff – like sit and stew. But really – I’m not moping around staring at my phone and email waiting for it to go off … waiting … waiting for the infamous call. Okay – I’m not good at waiting.
But I’m finding ways to keep busy – like writing this blog! I got the idea to write this after it was suggested to me that I help run a writers workshop for a local woman’s group. There was a workshop template I could use, or I could change it up as I saw fit. This got me thinking – How can I make this workshop unique? How can I make it my own?
The only way I know how! By sharing how I write a novel. Yes, yes – I know people have done this before. There are a million billion self-help writer books out there. But that’s not what I’m looking to do in this series of blogs. I’m not wanting to give you writing tips. I am wanting to let you into my inner madness. To show you how (specifically) my unique way of writing is achieved.
If this blog were up to my editor, she might say that I have the ability to channel characters from a fictional dimension. #TheFictionalDemension (I’m going to make this hashtag trend one day!) But that’s not the case … entirely. Wouldn’t that be cool though!
Any who, moving along …
In this blog, I’m going to keep it pretty general, or at least try. And then in the ones to follow, I’ll start to really dissect my writer’s brain, showing you where the crazed little hamster runs on the wheel!
So – back when I started writing I didn’t have a whole lot of rhyme or reason about why I wrote the way I did. But now that I’ve been at it for a while I’ve started to notice the patterns in the way I do things.
Let’s start with how I would write the beginning of a scene. Yes, I called it a scene, not a chapter. That’s because when I read a book (if it’s a well written book), it plays like a movie in my head. I can mentally see the characters interacting in their little world.
Now – I’m a bit of a free writer, by that I mean I don’t make huge, intricate outlines. What I do is a little more organic. In my notebook (coil bond, paper … I’m old school like that), I write out a few key points. This page often turns in to a scribbly mess but as long as you can read it that’s all that’s important. I start with the most basic things – Who is in the scene? This part is usually easy. I know which characters need to be there, which ones haven’t been seen in a while, and which ones might have some unfinished business.
Then I write down, in point form, what I need to get across in this scene. For example, the main character is very secretive about her life before moving to this small town. She’s doesn’t express her feelings well, she’s awkward, and the only time she’s ever opened up about her painful past was to a therapist, whom she can’t see any more because of the move.
- She (main character) is awkward
- She doesn’t express her feelings well
- She has a secret past
- She’s spent years with a therapist, that she is heart broken to leave.
(These particular examples pertain to writing the first chapter in my novel. Maybe you don’t care … but it keeps me focused telling you this as I write.)
When introducing this character, I need to get across all these things, BUT without actually telling the reader or dumping too much on them all at once. Not easy! But I’ve gotten better at it. It’s the whole – ‘show don’t tell’ thing.
To help ‘ show’, I’ve given my main character, Rachel, a few quirks and objects in her environment.
- Cardboard boxes: A simple and an effective way to hide things out in the open. Give a person a whole bedroom stacked with unopened boxes, that have been there for months – and you now have a proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. The cardboard boxes gave me a way to show the reader that Rachel was hiding something. It lets the reader in on a secret without sharing all the details with the other characters (her friends by association), while still making something seem ‘off’. She is reluctant to share what is inside the boxes with her friends. (Conveying her secretiveness about her past.)
- Expressing her emotions through weather analogies: I wanted to show the reader the relationship my main character had with her past therapist. So I gave the therapist a nickname, The Weather Lady. (In my world, you give people you love the most a nickname.) This ‘Weather Lady’ would analyze Rachel by using analogies about the weather. I think using this in my story adds depth, backstory, and invites the reader to use their imagination about what the main character is thinking. It also keeps these feeling to the reader and the main character, because she is shy, closed off, and all around messed up.
- An inner monologue, that occasionally comes out: Something the therapist tried to cure Rachel of, without success. I myself have a constantly running inner monologue. This quirk is a little bit of me seeping in to my character. I think it’s an awesome way to share with your reader, while keeping secrets from other characters.
Now that I have my list of characters in the scene, the points I need to get across, and a few things in the environment, I start to think about how I’m going to share this part of the story with the reader. A good way to figure out ‘how’ is to ask a few questions.
- Are the characters in the scene hearing something? A radio, A TV?
- Is someone talking in the background?
- Is a character dreaming or thinking about it in their mind?
- Would a flash back best tell this tale?
- Are the characters in a conversation?
- First, second, or third person?
After I’ve figured out where my scene stating point is, I let my characters take it from there. If you know your fictional characters well enough, they’ll know what to say and do. #TheFictionalDimension Make it trend people!
Okay! I hope that all made sense and you’re hungry for more. Next time, I think I’ll write on how I develop a fictional character.
Thanks for reading!
Good writing and good reading to you all.