Inspiration for and Writing Techniques
A question arose at yesterday’s writer’s conference: Where did the inspiration for my novel originate? A difficult question, but I’ll try to answer it before each of my novels is published. For my Romance-Horror cross genre novel, Generation “Z” Birth of the Zompire due out next month (hopefully), I was watching a zombie movie and wondered “What if” a zombie bit a victim of a vampire soon after this attack. I wondered why the zombies didn’t entirely consume him (especially his brain), how he would differ from both attacking fiends, and what his conversion to the “Zompire” would do to his romantic relationship with his girlfriend. The answers developed into the story.
Once I decide on the topic for a novel, the first thing I think about (this may be different for other authors), are the characters. My novels are character driven. For some authors, the setting is the most important aspect of their novels, and the characters move through the setting, forming their story. I’m more interested in the characters’ reaction to others, their beliefs, and their reaction to the, usually difficult, situations I develop for them. The setting, for me, is background only. In one of my mystery novels, Not Privileged to Know (to be published probably next year), the action starts in NYC, and progresses to Washington, DC, but, although in reading the story the background is easily recognizable, it’s just that: background. I don’t like to read page after page of description of rolling hills, no matter how poetic or beautifully written. I always skip these, and yes, I do miss an important point every now and then. So, I decided in my novels the description would remain as background. I hope readers like this, or at least understand.
I always begin my novels writing the description of my main characters. Face shape, nose, ears, mouth, skin color, tall or short, large or thin, etc. etc. I put these in a file labeled “Characters” so I can refer to or change these as I need or the story demands. I then put the main character(s) into a normal situation, then an action occurs that causes the main conflict of the novel. From there I develop the story, but, first, I decide where/how the novel will end. This gives me a target to shoot for as I write the story. I then write “high” points of the novel, those spots where I will build the tension and then resolve (partially, of course) that tension, and start building tension again toward the next tension point (IE. tension builds then falls, builds then falls etc.) Now, I can’t put them all in because they may develop out of the story or other characters’ interaction with my main characters in the story. Likewise, the personalities of my characters do, and should in my opinion, change as the story develops or ends. This may or may not hold true for secondary characters, but, to make the characters interesting and have the reader like or dislike the character (and both are okay in my novels), they need personalities and unique characteristics, as well as situations that they must overcome or suffer through.
Again, I place these characters in the initial situation/place and this determines the time/place/town/country/planet/ universe etc. and then the story proceeds with description as needed. I know others do it differently, but this seems to work for me. Next, I’d like to discuss something I struggle with every day in my writing: Show, Don’t Tell!
Now that my second novel has been published, I should have time to return to blogging here. I’ll try to post much more frequently. I have joined a writing group to try to improve my writing. We’ll see.
5/22/2014 Anyway, Show, not Tell is always difficult for me. I have always seen myself as a narrator and, as such, simply want to tell a story. The problem: it doesn’t draw the reader into the action. Solution? Show, Don’t Tell. So, I try to be the new reader of the passage, raise myself above the “author” status. This allows me to move into the action myself, see it like a movie, feel the emotions I’m trying to impart to characters. It seems to work for me. More later this week.