Everybody has different methods of creating, and there are countless books telling you the authors preferred method. While there is no wrong and right to plan plot, characters, points of conflict and subtext, I’m going to share my method of planning. Hopefully some of you will find it interesting, and hopefully you can share your methods, too.
Some authors plan everything down to the tiny detail. I find when I do this, I lose my enthusiasm for the story. With no room for spontaneity I quickly lose interest in the story. I plan a vague plot, and key points which I need to get to. With this, starting small, I focus on each section in its own right rather than each section in relation to the next.
I start with a character. A small thing I know about them. Using ‘Bruised’ as an example, I knew Hunter was adopted, and he would accept Evelyn as a daughter. I didn’t know much more in the beginning, so I planned what I could and wrote what I knew. It was through critiques and speaking to people that everything fell into place. I started with one story and everything else fell into place.
My characters drive my story. As I write, I find I get more ideas. As the characters come to life, they give me ideas to fill the gaps between each key event. Through giving my characters the freedom to write themselves, I can truly explore their personalities and watch them come to life. To me they’re like real people, not just fictional characters.
There are countless times I walk through the streets mumbling to myself until I get a clear conversation that fuels my scene.
- Scene Construction
It all starts with dialogue.
I think of key dialogue and from there everything falls into place. I started my serious writing with scripts, and my main focus was on clear, precise dialogue. I’ve been told that I could draw out the dialogue and pad it out, but I decided to ignore this advice. Most of the time I go for short but natural dialogue unless it is 100% necessary.
Once I have my dialogue I work on my descriptions, and internal thoughts where necessary. I find this helps me focus my energies on one thing at a time. I write, edit, fill the gaps, read, edit and edit to the best of my ability. It then comes to the point where I think I’m happy with it – until people outside of the story can put their fresh pair of eyes on it and spot the flaws and help me to improve.
- Back story
Back story is a difficult thing to handle.
In some cases, like in ‘In Between Dreams‘ there are things I can’t show/include in dialogue because nobody discusses it. The suicide is never mentioned because they’re desperate to move past it. I can only show this through flashback and even then there’s a balance between when is it necessary and when could you slip it through everything else?
In ‘Bruised‘, a lot of readers were asking for information about Daisy (Evelyn’s mother) but as Hunter doesn’t remember her, and Evelyn doesn’t talk about her mother with Hunter until halfway through the story, I can’t include it. This is a bother as most readers want information on this and keep asking for it. I can’t hint at things until Hunter and Evelyn are in a good place to discuss it. While this bothers me, I’ve found several ways to handle this.
While a lot of readers/writers frown upon them, it can be a good way to give information that is important to the story but isn’t part of the main piece. There is a danger to information dump using this method and that is one trouble with important backstory that can’t be fed through in another other way. I personally like prologues, they add something to the story but the story can work without. You hear stories of people skipping the prologues but I find that disrespectful. The author write it for a reason, it had significance of the author wouldn’t have written it in.
Backstory through dialogue
This is a method I have used in Bruised and In Between Dreams where necessary. It’s the most natural way to feed information through in my opinion, but it’s also got a huge risk of information dumping.
It’s only really a problem when you need to give backstory on characters when we’re not in their POV. For example, a friend of mine is constantly told she’s info dumping in her chapters. This is because she needs to give information on a character who is dead, and it’s never told from his POV. She’s struggling to put the backstory in a natural way. There’s a lot of information to tell, and it’s hard to find a natural way to do so.
In my third novel ‘Tiptoe‘ I can ease the backstory through. While Sean doesn’t mention it, people around him certainly do. This is a problem that arises all the time. Maybe with practice we’ll find the solution to this.
If anyone reading this had any advice on how to avoid information dumping, I’d love to hear it!
I hope anyone reading this has advice, or can share their method of constructing a story, I would love to hear it. Writing a story is possibly one of the hardest things in the world, and writing a good one is even harder. I’m still learning but I know what works for me and I would love to hear what works for other writers.