Tuesday, April 15, 2008
How do you start a book. Like anything else. The five W's. Who, what, when, where and most important why? If it's a mystery, how can also be important.
Know who your main character is.
What she wants
Why she can't have it.
Who is getting in her way
How she can overcome that and get what she wants.
I'm using she because I am, works for either one.
Now, what's the tone. I like Urban Fantasy that doesn't take it's self so seriously. Dresden meets Sookie Stackhouse. I like ironic, humor, sarcasm along with my blood and gore, demonic bad guys. The bad guy doesn't have to have a sense of humor but it can add to the story.
Conflict: You know there will be a bad person in conflict with the main character, or nature will be against her, or society. For greater depth, you also want to see the main character at war with him or herself.
Tali Cates is up against a killer who wants to harm her and her family.
But, she is also at war with herself, trying not to use her paranormal gifts and knowing she must in order to save her family. Both conflict must be dealt with by the end.
As far as plotting, I'm not seat-of-the-pants. I need at least a chapter outline of one or two sentences per chapter. I kind of figure out how long the book will by and then, ballpark length I usually make chapters then I know how many chapters I might end up with. If you're a genre writer like me, the genre often dictates total work count. Look at guidelines for the kind of book you want to write, aim for that word count.
I use plot points with the initial incident, then a quarter of the way through, another incident that changes the direction of the story, a mid point incident that turns things on their ear, things continue to become darker and darker until it can't get worse, then it does and you have the darkest before the dawn climax and then resolution. (I use post-its on a board (one per chapter) to figure things out and then a spreadsheet.) Since I have a mystery involved, I have to know who the killer is, why and how they did what they did and how they get caught so I can distribute the appropriate clues and foreshadowing.
It's good to have an ending which satisfies the reader. Mostly, romances like happy endings. Horror let's you get away with killing the hero-"I am Legend" or main characters "The Mist." Other genres may not. Know your genre. Urban Fantasy-keep the main character alive but some of his friends can die.
If you write a series, devise a way that works for you to keep characters, names, eye color etc. the same throughout the books. Binders, notebooks, whatever. More on novel writing later.
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