Every writer has their own style. Each has their own way of doing things, however, there are five components that I think are critical for any writing project. So, that’s what I’m going to blog about today. An idea, idea development, characters, character development, plot with plot development are all very vital to completing any writing project.
Of course, the first essential piece to the expanding puzzle is an idea. Ideas can come from anyway; anywhere you find inspiration, an idea is just waiting to be discovered. For me, my ideas come from dreams, songs, situations, television, movies; anything that makes an impact with me is fair game. For my book, Between Worlds Series (volume 1): The Fine Line (BWTFL hereafter), the idea came from a freak accident.
It was the summer of 2008 and I was living in Southwestern Ohio. The house across the street was an historical home and was actually on the Ohio registry. I had always admired it. One night there was a terrible storm and the tree in the neighbor’s front yard was split in two by lightening. I went across the street to tell them and they invited me in. I fell in love with the house. When I went back home, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the place were haunted?” I imagined, because of its age, all of the families it had seen and what the walls would say if they could talk. That’s all it took for me.
The next step, naturally, is idea development. It reminds me of clay. You hold in your hand, a gray clump of nothing. It’s bulky, it’s messy, and it’s completely raw. So, an artist probes, and shaves, and carves, and manipulates the object with the end result in his/her mind. Writers do the very same thing.
As is true with anything involving creativity, an idea is developed over time; it’s not something that just happens overnight. At least for me, it doesn’t work that way. I’ve had some ideas I’ve carried with me since childhood. It’s still the lump of clay. However, I’ve also had ideas that wouldn’t allow me to move forward until I sat down and worked things out. BWTFL was one of those ideas.
Something else that’s true, at least for me, is the idea can change over time. As I grew spiritually, the premise of my book changed. Originally, I wrote the book from a religious, fundamentalist point of view including scriptures, churchy content, and many other components. However, as my beliefs changes, so did the ideas for the book.
Next comes the characters. In all honestly, when you have an idea for a book or story, typically the character is already in the forefront of your mind. It’s almost like plugging in a cord from a lamp. The room is dark and then you plug in the light, turn it on, and there’s illumination. The characters bring your ideas to life. They literally breath life into the idea. Nonetheless, it’s not unheard of for a character to inspire an idea or visa versa.
Character development is a work over time as well. I have always started off with a rough thought of who is going to be the main character(s) of the book. They develop differently depending on the subject matter. For example, when writing BWTFL the character of Matthew Gregory came before the development of Robin Hillard. Why? Because I was inspired by the male character. perspective.
I recently completed a character development exercise with a class of eighth grade students. I asked them to close their eyes and think of someone who inspires them. I wanted them to see the figure in as much detail as possible. If they were going to develop a human character, I wanted them to see skin color, height, weight, hair color, eye color, think of what his/her personality would be like, and come up with as much detail as possible. Admittedly, most of my characters come to my mind during sleep, but the other supporting characters are typically developed for me during waking hours.
It’s also when developing your characters to write things down. Don’t count on your memory 100%. However, this is my own personal preference. This may not work for you when you’re trying to come up with your cast.
Lastly, and just as importantly, is plot development. You already have the idea now you just need to go somewhere with it. Plot development, I’ve found, takes my total concentration. Typically, what I do is sit down and outline what I want to see happen. That changes over time, but I put on paper a general pattern of how I want things to go; what I want the characters to do. From there I chisel away at the project plugging in details.
You can have phenomenal characters and if your plot doesn’t develop well you’ll find yourself stuck. I also admit that I suffer from intense writer’s block at times. This is because I need to go back and do something in these previous five steps. I need to either sit back down and develop the character or the plot better. Still, there are just sometimes my mind is simply too taxed by the ever day responsibilities of a career outside of the home and motherhood that nothing else will fit into that tight schedule. Sometimes I can’t clear my head and write. Sometimes I simply won’t be left alone so that I can write.
So, keep in mind that although these essential five things are necessary to work through, there are obstacles and hurdles that must be overcame as well. You can have the greatest idea, the most developed situation, the best characters, and an awesome plot, but if you cannot find time to sit and write, you’ll be spinning your wheels. Don’t be discouraged, however. There is a perfect time for everything. So if you’re having trouble with any of the steps or with writing in general, don’t lose heart. There’s likely a reason. There will be some source of inspiration that, maybe, you haven’t come into contact with.