Friday, August 29, 2008

Going a Little Crazy

Every novelist pens stories in his or her own unique way. Some use rigid step-by-step outlines or notecards, others find inspiration as they go and let the story carry them to unimagined places. I’m kind of in the middle. I don't like to be girded tightly. I do like to have an end in sight, but usually, I prefer to wrestle and stretch to get there and not have all the pieces mapped out at the onset.

When I worked on my novel, Kings & Queens, I had the high points in my story noted, but as I wrote the book, the entire plot grew much bigger than what I had originally planned. As I got to know my characters better, they began to shift the story in surprising and cool ways. I love the thrill of getting everything down in a first draft, feeling the movement of the plot, watching characters evolve on the pages. Yes, a first draft is unpolished and raw, but it’s your initial creative breath right there, your baby. And when it all comes together, when you type THE END, it’s an incredible feeling of accomplishment.

I also love choosing a difficult goal for a character to achieve or a plot concept that’s somewhat outlandish so I can push myself to come up with how and why something is the way it is. Anything in fiction can be believable: a mummy’s curse, a town of vampires, fairies living in their own realm, a woman who can touch a corpse and experience the last few moments of that person’s life. Maybe my ideas are too outlandish at times, but it’s my job to make those elements believable to readers.

The novel I'm working on now, Sapphire Reign, has been driving me a little crazy because of its dark content and my own nutty ideas. I'm making it difficult for myself, pretty much intentionally. I know dealing with the offbeat stuff is a challenge, but I’m finding myself more drawn to strange plot concepts and I enjoy having to really stretch and rack my brain to make things work.

Whether you stick with realism or flirt with the bizarre, try some different angles in your plot by asking yourself what-ifs and building from there. See if you can take your story higher, increase the stakes or tension or bring a hint of bitter to the sweet ending. It can never hurt to seek out another layer and breathe new and unexpected life into your work.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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