Crafting A Story

Building on my post from yesterday, now I’ll get into the actual story crafting. First you come up with some sort of plot or maybe you choose your characters first. There’s no wrong way with coming up with the story. It’s going from  idea to page that’s harder. You also have to know what kind of genre you’re writing in. Is it romance? Women’s fiction? Chick-lit? Fantasy? Urban Fantasy? Mystery? Thriller? Horror? YA? Or, a new one that’s cropping up, New Adult. You need to know this because there are different requirements regarding romance and other genres. Most books have romantic arcs but they don’t fall into the romance category but yet are sub-genres of romance.  

According to Laurie Brown, a good story has to have three things–goal, motivation, conflict. If you have both a heroine and a hero, then the GMC for both. Internal conflict is resolved with dialogue. External conflict is resolved with actions.  

There must also be some sort of resolution. If it’s a romance, then there is a happy ending–remember though that the resolution must be worthy of a hero/heroine that deserves a happy ending.   If it’s a genre other than romance but yet a sub-genre of romance (like women’s fiction, fantasy, historical, etc.) you get some type of “happy ending” but not necessarily “happily ever after.”

Whether you’re a panster, a planner, or a combination of both, it helps to write out a paragraph of what you want the GMCs to be of your characters before you actually start writing. Certainly, these can change as you write and discover new antagonists or go in a completely different angle, but when starting from scratch it does help to have an idea of where you’re going.

Once you start writing and decide to change your story, do you start completely over? Not necessarily. If it’s just a new angle, take your story in that new angle. You don’t have to restart from scratch. If you constantly rewrite as you write, you’ll never get done. Instead, write notes in that big white space at the beginning of each chapter of what you’re changing.  Chances are if you change plots as you write, you’re a panster and ideas come as you write. I’m that way too. My original draft looks nothing like what I have now. Sure, the backstory stayed the same, but I added in so much more depth to the book and now have a story arc that will carry over for several books. 

How well do you know your characters? If your characters come to life as you write and seem to take on a life of their own, that’s great. That’s what you want. You want your characters to be 3-dimensional, not superficial. One thing you can do to really get to know your characters and make them seem more real is go to the MBTI site to find out what your characters personality profiles are and then use a couple aspects of that profile in your characters.  You could have the murderer who likes to knit or bake, the suave guy who is insecure, the kickass fighter who fears getting close to anyone due to abandoment issues, and the list goes on. You do this even for supporting characters. If you’re writing in only first-person POV, it’s harder to convey what the other characters are thinking. Here, it’s good to have a good grasp on body language.  Your characters might say one thing but their body language says something else, and sometimes you want that. In the case of the suave guy, show his insecurity through body langauge even though he’s trying not to show it through words. Another thing you need to consider is whether your character is alpha or beta.  Does he anxiously run his hand through his hair or angrily rake his hand through his hair? Does he ask or demand? (There’s more I could put here, but it’d get a little raunchy.)

Scott Eagan says to think of your book as a movie. How much detail do you put in?  Sometimes the movie pans out to show lots of detail, sometimes it closes in to show only a little detail. When writing, think of your story as a movie as it plays out. If you can visualize it as your writing then you’ll know when to show more detail, when to show less.

I hope these tips help.  Tomorrow, I’ll post about the reasons why a manuscript gets rejected and how to fix it.

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