posted on Mar, 30 2004 @ 11:01 AM
Amuk .. That was great. I am very impressed. I was swinging my ax too. I fear the bloodletting that is about to occur in the camp below. You must
finish this would be a good book. Your off to a great start. I myself am interested in writing an action book where my character spoils a terrorist
plot. A couple of tips if your serious. These were passed to me.
How do you start a fiction book?
With something that gets the old curiosity rolling (you did pretty good).. But maybe paragraph #1 should be in the first person like Rant said.
Here is an exaggerated Example: The first time I killed another tribal leader I had just turned eighteen and was in the full bloom of manhood. I was
afraid the axe would just bounce off his broad shoulders.
You make any kind of a start like that, and then explainwhy you killed the sucker the first time, allude to the subsequent times, and what happened to
you as a result of causing his demise this pertikler time. By the time you get through explaining everything, you're into the book so far no reader
will let you quit.
Plotting made easy
How do you plot a novel? You read your favorite book and the writer put the twists and turns in just the right places. The pace was perfect. The
excitement built to the end and them WHAM- What a finish! How the heck to they do that?
Step 1- Write your book in two sentences or less. That's right- two sentences. Remember when you looked at the movie listings in the paper and they
had these two sentence descriptions that told you what the movie was about. That's what you have to write first. Why? Because the golden rule of
writing is to know what you're writing when you write it. Sure, you can get around this and throw out pages and ideas as you go, a lot of writers
have. I think that's wasteful. I've heard several stories of great writers submitting their manuscripts in large trunks- thousands of pages. "The
story's in there somewhere- they tell the editor." Look- no editor in today's publishing world is going to bother with that. You have to have the
book done and edited to perfection BEFORE you send it in. That's why you need to write your story's plot in two to three sentences. Anything that
you write or plot later must relate to those sentences or they need to be cut- period.
Here's an example: Moby Dick- Ahab, a whaleboat captain bent on revenge against the white whale that mauled him, spurs a tired crew across the ocean
in a grand hunt. Ignoring the dangers of the sea he becomes consumed with revenge and will do anything to get it.
There it is. Hundreds of pages boiled down to two sentences. Melville should have done this exercise himself. He grew as a writer as he wrote more and
more- culminating in this great literary classic, but even Moby Dick is flawed in a fundamental way. Melville includes an entire chapter that reads
like an encyclopedia of whale biology. There is no story whatsoever in this chapter- just diagrams and descriptions of whales. It is often called the
least read chapter in all great literature. Perhaps if Hawthorn had kept the heart of his story in mind he would have left that chapter out- or at
least put it in an appendix.
Boil down your story into 2 sentences and stay within those sentences.
Do this first. You will have to do it eventually when you submit to publishers and agents- so you might as well do it now and benefit from the sharp
focus it provides.
Step 2- Get out your index cards. Get a bunch of 'em, whatever size you like. Now sit and think about your story. Are there scenes and events that
pop to mind? Jot them down. No detail here- just enough to remind you what the card is about. Write the cards in any order. The LAST thing you want to
do is to force yourself to think of these scenes in a linear way (see my column on the writer's mind for more detail.) Just jot down every scene you
can think of. Some scenes will give you ideas for others. Just keep going. When you're tired put them down and review them later. Add more (don't
take any out, even if you've decided you probably won't use them.) Keep adding cards and scenes until you just can't think of any more ideas. By
now you're probably excited because you're getting a great view of the story and you can't wait to start writing. Well- wait anyway. There's more
Step 3- Organize your cards. Now's the time to put them in order. Keep two things in mind- first, unless you're doing weird things with the
timeline- everything should be linear. Event A should be followed by event B and so on. Don't do B,T,Z,P,A, or some darned thing unless you really,
really know what you're doing. If this is your first book- I wouldn't even think about it. A-B-C, 1,2,3- Keep it nice and simple.
Second, think about what events you want your readers to see. Chances are you won't be showing every single action taken by every single character
throughout the timeline. Decide what scenes are most exciting or important for the main storyline. Don't worry- you can easily find ways to share
these events with readers without launching into the full scene. A main character could get a phone call or a note. They could hear about an event
from another character- or maybe even guess that the event has occurred based on their observations. Make a little mark or symbol of the cards that
you're sure you'd like your readers to see. Don't worry- nothing's set it stone yet. Just make a note and move on.
Step 3- Now that you have all of your events it's time to get picky. Lay your cards out on a large flat surface, or put them up on a bulletin board.
When I first started I bought two sheets of corkboard and put them on the wall in my office. I pinned all the cards on the board the way I liked them.
When you're done you should be able to see your whole novel and enjoy following the plot. Keep rearranging if you want to- go nuts. Don't stop until
you like what you see. This is a concept called storyboarding, and it's used by creative in a variety of mediums. Watch one of those
how-they-made-the-movie documentaries. They ALWAYS storyboard. It's a great tool.
Step 4- Details. Now take your cards down one at a time. You're going to make some notes on the back before you put it back up. You can make a new
card if you need to. Here's what you're going to put on the back:
* Location: Where is the scene happening? Watch for problems with logic here. A character in New York can't be in London 5 minutes later. Think of
ways to have the setting enhance your plot. Be creative. I once put a car chase scene in the hallway of the Smithsonian. Just made things more
* Time: What is the day and time this is happening? Also- watch for logical flaws.
* Characters: List all characters who will appear in this scene.
* Main POV: Every scene should be written through the eyes of just one character- your point of view character. Who is the POV character in this
* Main POV's goal: What is the POV character trying to accomplish here?
* Problems that stop the main POV character from reaching their goal (Try to list 3-4 at minimum.): What's in the way? What's stopping the character
from getting what they want? By the way- if there's nothing in this scene that's in the way this better be the last chapter of the book or you're
in trouble. All drama is based on conflict. Make sure there's plenty of it in every scene.
* Scene ending hook: In most of the book things should be getting worse, or if things are looking better- make sure your reader knows that relief will
be short lived. End the scene with some hint of more conflict to come. Don't let the reader have an excuse to put the book down because they might
not pick it up again.
Step 4: Put the project down and come back to it a few days later with a fresh view. Read- revise- and wait again. Do this until you're happy with
Step 5: Start writing from the cards one scene at a time. I like to take what I've put on the cards and put them into a single document in Word. That
way I can keep adding notes and rearranging without a lot of trouble.
When it's time for me to write I pick any scene- not necessarily in order, review the information and write the scene based on the information on the
card. You always start writing knowing what your goal is and what needs to be included. No writer's block to deal with here.
Creating Believable Caaracters:
Creating believable characters is an essential element of fiction. The story rests on your characters shoulders, if they don't hold up then your
story collapses. So how do you make believable characters?
First recognize that different genres of fiction have different needs. A tightly plotted action or suspense thriller may not need characters fleshed
out in detail as much as a literary novel. Also be aware that the more outlandish your plot is, the more important character believability becomes.
Read any Steven King book and you'll see this. The reason he can take us on these journeys through strange and unusual events is his power to create
realistic characters. When we believe the character, we believe what's happening to them.