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.

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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