I regularly blog about how to find writing inspiration: from music, images and paintings, stories, inanimate objects and even Literary Agent’s wish lists, inspiration is everywhere. Sit in a café or on a park bench for half an hour and you’re likely to spot an interesting character or two who may have the potential to feature in your next story.
It’s one thing to come up with the idea for a story though, but how do you turn this in to a full blown novel? I know people who tried and failed at NaNoWriMo last November because the story they were writing came to an abrupt end before they got to 50,000 words. They felt as though there was nowhere for it to go and although I never read the stories, I’m not entirely convinced that upon editing, they wouldn’t be able to flesh it out somewhere by developing the characters and some of the plot lines. With NaNo, though, you have the deadline of one month and that doesn’t leave you with much time to flesh out those ideas.
So for the rest of us, with all the time in the world to write a novel (we wish!), it leaves us with the opportunity to develop our ideas to ensure that we get to the end of that elusive novel. What does it take to do this? I hear you ask.
This example comes from a previous post but I’m going to use it to illustrate a point.
When I read this article about the horse sanctuary, it got me thinking how sad it was that no one wanted those horses. I used the principle of ‘what if’ to think of different scenarios – what if the horses had a voice? I don’t mean in terms of talking to humans, but to each other. Then I also wondered what if it wasn’t as safe a sanctuary as it was made out to be? I imagined that there was a fire which then led to thoughts of, what if the horses could help solve the mystery of who started the fire? From a simple newspaper article, I have the beginnings of a story idea.
Now let’s move on to think about character development. What is the background of all these horses? Where have they come from and what happened to them? We can create descriptions, personalities and character traits for each one of them and before we know it, we’re building up a kind of cast list for our story. Getting behind the psyche of our characters by imagining how each of them feels about coming to live in the sanctuary and we have the potential for resentment, pain and sadness, perhaps even relief.
Structure the story now. We know there’s a fire and we’re going to say that it was started deliberately, to make the story more intriguing. What if the owner couldn’t pay his debts? Did he start the fire? Did the debtors start it? At the same time as developing a story about the horses themselves, we can also build up a story about the sanctuary and its struggle to stay open.
As all these ideas begin to unfold, we can start to order them up. Starting with jotting down potential scenes, then putting these together, we get the beginnings of a chapter. We can change the order around until the structure of the story looks right and then we can start to write our story….
The characters will develop as you write and may lead you to vary from your original structure. That’s ok, but make sure you take a step back now and then so you don’t waver too far from the plot. I suggest putting together a separate plan containing each chapter with a brief summary. If you make changes, you can edit this plan, plus you can also keep a timeline to make sure that events follow in chronological order.
Good luck with your writing. If you have anything to add to this, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
I’m sharing this for What I’m Writing.
This post was written in collaboration with Agent Hunter. All opinions are my own.