The great thing about writing is that every writer does it differently. In the beginning writers spend time trying to decide how to go on, at least I floundered a bit. I read a multitude of books on writing fiction and picked a bit from this book and that book until I devised a way of doing this. Lately I've been looking at what is needed in a book. Though the idea is the first it doesn't give a way to proceed. Then I remembered from college classes in creative writing and journalism that what one needs are five points that lead to one. So which comes first. What I'd like to do on Friday's writer's tips is to ask some of my fellow writers to share how they combine the five points into the sixth.
These points are Who, What, Why, When and Where that all lead to How. This is what works for me but might not work for you since there are other ways to do what I do.
How do you develop your characters? Do you have a system?
I use Astrology frequently when I'm developing my characters. I look at the Sun sign to give me the character's basic nature. Sometimes they hide this nature from other people. The Moon sign shows me how they react emotionally to events and how they may act. The Ascendant gives me a glimpse of what the world sees as them. By taking these three elements, I can form a picture of my character and also their physical being. Then I must search for a name that fits. Having all this in place, I still have a semi-rounded cardboard character but there is more to be done.
What is the character looking for? How do you choose your character's goals?
For me it's looking at the three parts of the person's character and also at the idea I have for the story. There are goals that are specific to genres and these must figure into what goal the character has. To find love, to find the bad guy, to explore a new world, to learn magic. These are general goals. These I try to fit the particular character.
Why does your character want to reach this goal? How do you choose the character's motivations?
Once again I turn to the character I've developed and see what in their three areas can be turned into a reason for their actions. The hints are often found in their emotional nature and their inner nature.
By the time I finish this I have a character that's ready to step into action. So what comes next. Keeping the idea in mind, I look at the Where and the When. I often consider these at the same time.
Where does the story take place? How do you choose your settings? Is research a help?
This becomes interesting since the setting often points to the genre. Sometimes this takes a great deal of research. Right now I'm in ancient Egypt though an alternate world and this takes a volumn of research and not just on the land and how I plan to twist it. I've had to research animals found there and also the desert, particularly the Sahara and survival there. What becomes the problem is that the research sometimes becomes so interesting I can't stop. I've designed a way to avoid this by being a draft writer so I can get the story down and go back and see what I need to find. Other stories take less research but all take some to make the where of the story come to life.
How do you decide when your story takes place? Does the time period make a difference in how you write and research?
When is generally a time period and if I'm writing a historical or a contemporary setting the time period counts. During the latest story what I nearly forgot was twilight only happens in more northern areas and areas closer to the equator doen't have twilights. Fortunately a friend lived in Egypt and clued me in. Research also helps keep the writer from writing a story that calls for sunshine during something like the aftermath of a volcano erupting miles away causing changes in the light or the weather.
How do you plan your book? Does the How or the Plot just happen or do you plan it out before hand?
Now I take all these things and begin to write the How. Now I don't outline extensively but for me knowing the opening scene of a story and knowing the end is important to my process. I generally write a sort of treatment that can run from 3 pages to a lot of pages. The ones that are long are usually for the trilogies and series I write. The shorter ones are for the stories. These consist of me telling myself a story mainly focusing on the characters and their goals and reasons for their desires. This includes the hero and heroine and the villain if there is a bad guy. Then with this plan in mind I sit down and write.