I’ve had several people tell me that I should share some tips on writing for y’all so, I decided to make a “sorta’ series” that I will try to post weekly or biweekly….:-)
Today’s tip is the one that I find to be the most helpful to me when I sit down to write a story for the first time.
Connecting Your Characters to a Good Stroy, is not making your characters a story that you think is best for them. It is letting your characters tell you the story that they want to be in.
Now, that sentence may seem weird to many of you, “How can your character tell you what story they want to be in?”. Well, this DOES NOT work for EVERY writer! It totally depends on how you’ve trained yourself to sit down and write. If you are used to coming up with a story world and then developing characters, then you will find it fairly difficult to reverse the roles and this post really doesn’t apply to you (though that doesn’t mean you have to leave, I’d love it if you stayed!). However, if you are full of wonderful characters and never know what to do about a storyline, then this tip is for you!
In order for me to come up with a story that suits my characters perfectly, I just let them tell me what kind of story that they want to be in! Now, this isn’t like a physical hearing type thing, but those of us who are in touch with our characters and know everything about them, feel like it is physically heard because it’s just so obvious, to a trained mind. Take my Chess stories for example, I never have to sit and think for hours before coming up with a fun new “episode”, I simply let Chess’s personality, past, present, friends, voice, etc., tell me what would next be a fabulous tale. But, this does take lots of concentration and focus at first, however, once you have it mastered, you will be able to do it without thinking about it.
Where do you start? That’s a fabulous question! The first thing is to ask yourself whether you really know your main character or not. If you were introducing him/her to your best friend and your best friend wanted to start a game of 20 questions with your character, would you know enough about your character to answer any question your friend threw at you? This a really good place to start. You should be able to answer pretty much every question about your characters without hesitation before you can accurately “hear” what story that they want to be in.
To “hear” what your characters “tell” you, all you have to do is use what you know about them and turn it into an equation, like the following,
Character’s NAME + PAST + MEMORIES + HOBBIES + (etc.) = the Story WORLD
Once you are confident in knowing your characters, the story-world should just pop right out at you because you will know their past. If you character’s name is Princess Lauraine Kodie (using my character for example), then obviously you know that she is a princess and therefor must have some relationship to a monarchy kingdom. This could be a fantasy kingdom, as in my story, or a real kingdom like England. I also know that Princess Lauraine has wonderful memories of her family, so that determines that she is born into a loving family and that she probably loves her family in return. Her hobbies involve sword fighting, dancing, and anything having to do with her brother, so that determines, that though she is a dainty princess, she is not inclined to stay only within the castle’s walls, meaning she probably loves being outdoors and has some pretty grand adventures.
The equation for determining the actual plot is little trickier:
(Character’s PERSONALITY + FRIENDS + KNOWLEDGE) x (Writer’s IMAGINATION + TROUBLE-FORMING-SELF) = the Story PLOT
Now, the above helped us discover the story world. But then, how do you come up with a plot? Well, you will have to come up with the plot on your own using that wonderful writer’s imagination, with just a little help from the character’s personality. Again using Princess Lauraine as an example, I know that she has a slightly dramatic personality and has a tendency to lose herself to uncontrollable sobbing when things go terribly wrong. So, something in the plot has to go terribly wrong to show that part of her personality, otherwise, no one will ever see that part of her and it will be irrelevant to even know her personality at all. On the other hand, I also know that she is extremely smart, brave and stubborn, so something has to happen to show this side of her personality as well. Being the trouble-forming author that I am, I decide to take her family from her, showing her hysterical personality, but also using my imagination to give her a chance to redeem them, which shows her other personality attributes.
Once you have both your story WORLD and PLOT, you simply add those two together and the answer is your synopsis (or back of the book description), like the following:
Princess Lauraine had a wonderful family, her parents went to great extents to show her their love by breaking traditions of sending their children away for learning purposes, and her brother would spend endless hours installing his knowledge of the outdoors with her. But all of that changed when The Castle of Tunock, her beloved home, was burned to the ground and her parents killed, by her brother! Now she is fleeing everything she has ever known in order to simply stay alive, but her saviors have other plans; instead of keeping her alive and in hiding, they want her to rise up and defeat her once most beloved friend, Prince Zack, her brother. Should she deny those who care about her and remain hidden, or should she attack her brother and save the kingdom? And, is there a possibility that all is not as it seems, that maybe, just maybe, her brother is not her enemy after all?
Did you see how I used both equations to write that? Once you have the synopsis, then, you start writing chapter one and go until you write the words “the end”!
So, in review, you are using your knowledge of your characters against them and black-mailing them into telling you an awesome story that will make them go through all kinds of troublesome situations but yet, giving them a happily-ever-after (sometimes…..you authors that kill all of your characters are just brutally mean, despite the fact that your stories are the best I’ve ever read! You know who you are!).
I hope that this has helped some of you today and feel free to comment below for any questions or comments!
If you write your plot and world before coming up with your characters, what steps do you take to creating the perfect character for your perfect world?