Time to Get Cracking…
I’m pleased to report that I’ve had a very encouraging couple of weeks. Out of the blue, several very nice people have sent me messages of support for my writing which, beyond the selfish pleasure I derive from playing with words on my own, makes it all feel worthwhile…
It’s therefore the ideal time to put some concerted effort into my next project…
For me, a story-idea begins as a base premise, usually comprising of one or possibly two central themes. I churn these concepts in the back of my mind, usually over several years, until one or more of them take root and start to blossom into potential story-lines. At this point, characters have usually started to appear though, in these early stages, they are mostly only vague wire-frames of what they might become. As an aside, I’m currently juggling about half-a-dozen, variously well developed, concepts in the dark and dank corners of my mind.
What seems to happen next is that, toward the point when I’m finishing one manuscript, I start to down-select the next most personally interesting theme. I discovered a while back that my levels of personal-motivation are critical to me actually finishing a novel-length story. In other words, I have to be excited by something for it to get done. Let’s face it: there’re enough burdensome tasks in life so writing – at least for me – needs to be fun!
The new theme then becomes subject to more detailed scrutiny and testing; during which I’ll try to imagine important individual scenes in more detail, start to flesh-out the main characters and begin to define any supporting cast. This then leads to two things, which I seem to do in parallel: character biographies and story-boarding.
Character Bio’s were an area of weakness when I wrote Firebird so, for Thunder, I developed a more extensive single-spreadsheet based system to capture and develop the key characteristics for each player. Along the columns I list the characters, along the rows I list key attributes (eye colour, hair colour, physique, attitude, penchant for getting themselves killed, etcetera). I found this tool provided two benefits: it showed up any key gaps where detail was missing and it also made for easy reference when writing and thereby helped to maintain consistency and avoid silly mistakes. Unlike some writers, I don’t bind myself down, nor my characters, by trying to plan out every last nuance of personality for them straight away. Rather, I let myself get to know the characters during the writing and am prepared – cautiously – to fine-tune aspects of their behaviours, or sometimes even role, downstream.
For my storyboards, I use a couple of A1-sized flip-charts which are hanging on the wall of my workroom. I write up ideas – scenes, characters, hook-lines, names, and anything else that pops up into my mind – on post-it notes and then stick them randomly on one of the charts. This is my “idea pool” for the novel and it usually gets added to right through to the end of drafting. Unused ideas are noted at the end of the process and saved for later projects. On the second flip-chart, I use tiny post-its to build up swimming lanes – often by main character – of key scenes and staging points from front to back of the story. Initially, these are usually very high level with only one or two signposts along the way then, as I start to draft, I fill in the gaps, cross-overs and interlinks. The great thing about using post-its is that you can reshuffle as you go – useful if you need to make a change or if you come up with a new and interesting dynamic during the draft. This kind of storyboarding helps me to avoid plot-holes and any huge leaps or disjoints between diverse – or even chronological – sections. It also seems to help develop a more constant pacing and balance throughout a longer manuscript.
These two processes are what I’m in the middle of for my next book and, as per the title of this post, it’s time for me to get cracking with them! But, having read my ramblings, what about you? I’d love to hear if you’ve got any tricks or tips for Character Bio’s or Storyboarding that you would recommend? Now is the perfect time for me to find out about them!
Posted on February 10, 2013, in General, Previews, Writing and tagged biography, board, character, diy, how to, news, personal, self publish, story, tips and tricks, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.