Monday 6 October 2014

Piecing together your story's jigsaw...

I'm diving into the planning process of my second book - Celebrityville - and so I thought this would be an opportune time to talk a little bit about initial ideas and linking up the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that will become your story.

The events of Celebrityville will take place before those of my first novel - Sleb - and will stand as the first part in a continuing series set in that absurd universe with those curious stars, obsessives, haters, and all-round warped individuals.

Click "READ MORE" below to continue...

When it comes to ideas - the initial sparks that fire off randomly at any time - it's always best to keep a notebook/pad of paper/whatever close-to-hand. As soon as you have a random idea that explodes out of nowhere just as you were brushing your teeth, gazing out the window, or drifting off to sleep, you'll want to get it down on paper immediately.

I like to let these initial ideas come to me as-and-when, allowing enough time to gather a good many pages of notes - possibilities for characters, plot devices, opening scenes, turning points, highlights, low lights, and everything in-between. It can take a while, so it's always best to try and start this part while you're working on something else - for one thing, it affords you a little bit of respite from whatever you're currently doing. Even with all the love in the world, when you're deep into a writing project that you've been working on for a long time, you'll crave some creative change. Brief sojourns into the 'anything goes' world of jotting down rough ideas for a new story are an excellent way to reinvigorate your creative juices.

When you're ready to really start getting deep into your new writing project - after your existing one is completed and out there doing it's thing, and once you've recharged your brain - it's time to dig into those initial notes. They'll be disorganised, hastily scribbled down, but go through them from start to finish and highlight the key words and ideas. Then take those 'essential ideas' and write them out in a brainstorm on a piece of paper - or individually on numerous small pieces of paper scattered across your floor - and observe them from on-high.

You'll be able to see an overview of 'the story so far' - all those seemingly disparate and random ideas - and connections will begin to appear. Two character ideas might combine to form one antagonist, or necessary middle man to go between your hero and your villain. That opening scene idea might suddenly become the climax, or vice versa, and so it goes on.

At this stage you'll have a vague idea of the general narrative - perhaps very vague - but you should have a good central theme, a couple of strong characters, a start point, an end point (of sorts at least), and a few trials and tribulations to spice things up. Now is the time to start arranging them - something that works particularly well with the 'scraps of paper on the floor' method. Your developing story will be laid out in front of you in pieces, like a jigsaw, but you'll be missing an awful lot of chunks - now is the time to craft new jigsaw pieces and arrange them to suit you.

There's an awful lot of writing advice out there on the web - this post being just one of countless many articles - however some things you just have to get a feel for on your own. The story you want to tell is yours and only you have those pieces - snapshots of imagery, chunks of dialogue, blurry shapes of characters - inside your head. Once you've got your 'essential ideas' spread out in their most distilled form (remembering to reference the respective corresponding page numbers in your notebook) then you'll be able to leapfrog from one to another and create links that weren't visible to you beforehand.

This happens, creating this outcome ... so therefore the protagonist would need to ... go here and see ... that person, who would then ... introduce them to their helper/foil ... meanwhile this event is unfolding, but how will it tie into the main narrative ... by sliding in over here at this crucial junction!

From the outside it might appear to be madness, or at least a disconnected jumble of notes, but once you start drawing lines from one piece to another, the overall picture - your narrative - becomes clearer and clearer until every piece is linked up and in position.

I don't tend to talk too much about the processes of writing, at least nowadays, because as I said earlier - there's an awful lot of advice about writing out there - but I just thought I'd share this little bit of my methodology. In many ways this is the most fun part of writing - anything goes, you only have to sketch the ideas roughly, and the story is at its most fresh in your mind. Of course, the key is coming up with a story that you'll want to tell over a long period of time as you eventually turn to the keyboard and start typing out all those pages.

If you get the goods in the planning stages then you'll be heading towards that keyboard with a great story to tell and the means with which to tell it without hitting any major road blocks.

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