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Starting Your Story

You may have a great idea for a story and want to begin writing immediately. But as you get the words on paper or in your computer, the idea in your head is not what you hear when you read the words aloud.

Think about including the suggestions below to help you write your explosive novel.

star Identify what type of story to write — genre, mood, and theme.

star Define the major characters, including backgrounds and personalities.

— Create a normal daily routine for each character that also contains conflicts, new elements, relationships, and/or catastrophes — whether good or bad. Then change it! This affects the character financially, mentally, physically, and/or emotionally. The change also has consequences.

star Develop a plot with external conflicts and changes. Then plan your conflict resolution and consequences.

— A sympathetic lead character has a desperate need for something — knowledge, success, love, a solution, to avoid danger.
— An effort is made to reach success or achieve what the character needs.
— Every effort moves the character farther from the goal or deeper into trouble, not because they mess up, just that every effort either creates or uncovers new obstacles.
— Every new obstacle is larger than the last, and when the character reaches the end, the last obstacle must seem insurmountable. The most inventive choice helps reach the desired goal.
— When things look the blackest, he or she manages to get himself out of it through effort, intelligence and ingenuity.
— Try opening with a conflict that is starting to get worse. This gives a reason for change.
— Each scene and chapter should have this same kind of plot structure, but in the case of scenes and chapters, there should be something left over — a question unanswered, a problem to be solved, or a mystery that impels the reader to read on. Try having several plot threads going at once.
— Use a major twist (a surprise or shock) in the story about 1/3 of the way through and another 2/3 of the way through. Be sure to add the solution at the end without leaving any questions unanswered.
— Start in the middle of action to make it interesting, adding background later.
— A man and a woman fall in love -- they have to learn about each other, clues are dropped, false steps are taken. There is risk. There has to be motivation. There is usually suspicion before there is trust. To have romance create atmosphere, use lighting, shadows, sounds, and scents. Show emotions.

star Are there romantic conflicts? Who is wounded? The hero? The heroine? Both? Tie in romantic conflicts to external and internal conflicts. Define a black moment that is thematically powerful.

star Determine how to resolve the conflicts and in what order. Who wins?

— Is the external or romantic plot resolved first?

star Each scene should include plot advanceement, reveal character, and/or changes the conflict for the better or worse. Write each scene to relate to the theme of the entire story.

star Dialog should also advance the plot, provide information, reveal character, or change the conflict. Eliminate chit chat. Give each character a voice.

— Include snappy dialog, short narrativs, and minimal monologs to move the story forward. Reveal urgency and define the threats.
— End themes with cliffhangers.
— Balance seriousness with humor.

star Is all lost in a black moment? Make each tension peak more than the previous one.

star To make your writing good enough to publish, review each paragraph.

— Remove all adjectives and adverbs. Then review each noun and verb to consider more descriptive words for clarity and more vivid images. Now, sparingly add back adjectives or adverbs to enhance the depth.
— Using the character's name takes the reader out of the character's point of view. Try substituting he or she when it's not confusing.
— Vary your sentence structures so they don't all have the same format.
— Check that chapter endings carry the reader forward. Put hooks in the beginning of each new chapter.
— Check descriptions for long passages of narrative that slow the story, or too little content to define the characters or scene.
— Describe aspects of all five senses: sounds, smells, looks, tastes, touch/sensation. Fill your characters with emotion.
— Review for smooth transitions from scene to scene. Check clarity on which character's point of view is described. Be sure the sense of time is established from scene to scene and in relationships of points of view.
— Check historical or contemporary facts, modern words used in a past timeframe.

Previous No No's that are now commonly broken

star A chapter shouldn't have more than 2 scenes.

star Don't switch point of view within a scene or chapter.

star Don't give the secondary character's point of view.

star Don't have an exotic locale.

star No one is buying stories about the Civil War or Revolutionary America, so don't write about it.

star Don't write about actors or sports figures as your hero.

star Don't use prologues because they slow down the beginning.

star Don't have an exotic locale.


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