Archive | July 2012

Kate Loveday

Idea or Character, which is most important?

Where do you find your ideas? As a writer I’m often asked this question, and the answer has to be -from life. Not necessarily from my own life, of course, although, it’s these experiences that shape my outlook on life, that help to create my beliefs.  An idea can come from a news item, a chance remark overheard in a public place or even just by looking at someone and wondering about them and maybe imagining a life for them. Yes, ideas are all around us, just waiting to insinuate themselves into the mind.

Then come the characters. This is the thrilling part of writing – to create a character from the fabric of your own imagination, to give him(or her) a life, a personality, strengths and weaknesses; to mould him to whatever you want, good or bad, honest or truthful, cruel or…

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So you want to write?

You want to write? That’s wonderful! For me, there are few activities that can bring as much pleasure and reward as finishing a piece of writing, reading it, and thinking ‘Well, that’s not bad.’ But the absolute pinnacle of satisfaction comes when you have your first piece of work published and see it in print for the first time. What a glorious feeling!

However, between first making the decision that now is the time to start writing in earnest, and having your first piece published, there is a wide gulf of effort on your part.You’re actually going to have do a lot more work.

Perhaps, like me, you don’t come to writing until later in life, maybe you never had the time until you retired. Well then, you’re going to have to learn a lot in a short time.

Or maybe you’re still young. In this case you have many years ahead of you to learn your craft and hone your skills. But you will have the impatience of youth and want it all to happen now.

Maybe you come somewhere in between?

Whatever age you come to writing you have a lot to learn. It has been said that writing, and finishing, a piece of work is one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration. Believe me, this is true! No matter how brilliant the idea you have for your first story, you must be prepared to put in many hours at the computer, first completing and then polishing and re-polishing your work before it’s ready to submit to a publisher. It can be a long journey, and you will need bucket loads of persistence.

There are many steps along the way, and the first of these is the plot, the framework on which every story hangs.

Every story begins with an idea in the writer’s mind. You need to think about your idea and flesh it out as much as you can before you start writing. Do you have an idea for a complete story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end? Perhaps you don’t have the whole story in your head to start with, you probably have an idea that you believe you can develop into a good story.

There are basically two types of writers; plotters and pantsers.

Plotters are those who sit down and plot the whole story piece by piece, until they reach a satisfactory conclusion. Plotters prefer a well-structured outline and fully developed characters before they start the actual writing process. With that in place the plotter has the base on which to create and flesh out the story without worrying about what comes next.

Pantsers are those who ‘fly by the seat of their pants’. (That’s me. I think we have a lot more fun, but then maybe I’m prejudiced!). They start with an idea and, at the very least, the main character, and begin to write, but they don’t really know where it’s going to take them. The rest of the story comes to them as they write, often directly from the characters themselves. Pantsers play the ‘what if’ game but it helps if you can at least know how the story is going to end, so that you have an idea of where you’re heading.

Neither of these ways is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. All will end up in the same place – at THE END. It’s the journey that’s different.

Whichever way you choose the most important thing is to find the writing process that works best for you. Perhaps you’ll use a bit of both.

Whichever way you write, the beginning of your story must hook your reader into wanting to read on. You have a very short time to do this. If the reader isn’t ‘hooked’ in the first two or three paragraphs, or at least the first page, you may well lose them. Get something happening immediately. Establish a threat or worry or story question at once.

You could start your story with a minor problem, or a turning point in your main character’s life that ‘hooks’ the reader. You don’t usually start your story with the major crisis, you usually build up to that as time goes by, but you do introduce conflict in the form of a problem.

As time passes and the story moves on you make the problem bigger or you solve it but create another problem as a result of solving it.

As the story progresses you add more problems, revealing something else, leading into another predicament.

Then you come to the ‘dark moment’ when it looks as if all is lost. Finally the characters overcome the problems and the story reaches a happy or at least a satisfactory ending.

You have now completed the first stage of your journey! Keep going!