How many novels have I started? I have a spiral notebook for each one, 150-200 of them, perhaps, at various stages of completeness.
It’s very easy to start a novel. Sit down with pen in hand, think of something that shows a lot of action, that could be happening right this minute somewhere in the Universe. Begin to write down what is happening. Why is it happening? To whom is it happening? When is it happening? Where is it happening? (I think that covers all of the Ws: Who, what, when, where and why that journalists focus on for their stories…not sure if they are writing fiction or non-fiction sometimes.)
But you will get to a point where you start to ask yourself, “Where is this going?” Seems to me that might be a good place to put aside the story you have been penning and start fleshing it out. Do some character building. Who is the main character and why is this person so important to the story. (The person you THINK is the main character may not end up being the main character.) Why is it so important to tell this story? You know the beginning of the story…well, as it stands right now. But that may change. And what is the end of the story? Do you know that? Maybe you should think about that because when you know the beginning and the end you will be able to figure out what has to happen to get from Point A (beginning) to Point B (conclusion.)
Yeah, I sound like I know what I’m talking about, don’t I? But I don’t think Stephen King has to worry about me invading his space just yet.
In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway writes, “Stories do not begin with ideas or themes or outlines, so much as with images and obsessions, and they continue to be built by exploring those images and obsessions.” She advises the writer, “Know thyself.” She quotes Dorothy Allen, “I believe the secret of writing is that fiction never exceeds the reach of the writer’s courage.” Then Burroway resumes speaking, “Fiction is written not so much to inform as to find out, and if you force yourself into a mode of informing when you haven’t yet found out, you’re likely to end up pontificating or lying some other way.”
If you haven’t surprised yourself, you haven’t written. ~ Eudora Welty
A short story is a writer’s way of thinking through experience…Journalism aims at accuracy, but fiction’s aim is truth. The writer distorts reality in the interest of a larger truth. ~ John L’Heureux
Have I helped anyone with this bit of knowledge today? Well, I can only hope.
(c) 2013 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED