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.