Using Story Kernels

When I first envision a novel, I usually see a character doing something in a particular place. That sets me to asking questions that eventually end up as story “kernels,” plot points or scenes which I then must string together to make a story.
Writing Tip for Today: Although many writers first get down a lot of dialogue, my characters don’t start talking until I begin to draft. Instead I use these “kernels” to help me ask important questions.

  • Goal? What does my lead character want?
  • Obstacle? Who or what stands in the way?
  • Complication? What are my lead’s secrets? What’s this person got to hide?
  • Action? What will the goal, obstacles and complications force this character to do?

I like to include the character’s secrets to remind me that I must balance inner and outer conflict. I also go through this same process for all other significant characters. I ask many more questions as I try out the character’s voice and get to know them. Many times I’ll write a scene only to have the character inform me that he/she would NEVER do it the way it’s written. By pre-envisioning the character, it’s easier for me to plug into the one of the most elusive parts of that character– motivation. More on motivation tomorrow.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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