|Photo by Will Scullin|
We’ll explore the writing process from the first budding idea to the marketing of a published book, perhaps even diagramming a few sentences. Does anybody remember doing that in high school English? Our topics will include
• Drawing the blueprint – creating outlines and character sketches,
• Excavating – researching (essential for fiction, too)
• Pouring the foundation – solidifying theme,
• Laying the subfloor – determining timelines,
• Framing walls – structuring story,
• Constructing trusses – writing effective sentences,
• Installing the roof – deflecting fallout,
• Enclosing the structure – controlling flow,
• Hanging drywall – closing gaps,
• Finishing the interior – self-editing and proofing,
• Painting the exterior – hiring an editor,
• Putting up the For Sale sign – donning a realtor’s hat.
Blueprints detail placement of plumbing and electrical fixtures; locations and measurements of rooms, doors, and windows; roof pitch; etc., to make the completed structure to be habitable and functional. How does this relate to writing a book?
Just as a house doesn’t magically appear on a vacant lot, an unwritten story doesn’t pop up on your monitor. You need a plan—outline, a work crew—characters, and a strategy (story) to tie them together. Then you need to construct it. Written notes (not mental ones) describing basic plot and defining character personalities, preferences, background, family, education, job, idiosyncrasies, physical appearance, etc., will keep you on track. (See Terry Odell’s post on “Character Voices”)
This “blueprint” maintains character integrity and story flow because we don’t have perfect memories. My editing days abounded with characters that changed hair or eye color, places of birth, physical sizes and attributes, and a host of other inconsistencies that befuddle readers. Following detailed character sketches keeps characters true to themselves and consistent in appearance, and consulting an outline (plot map) keeps the story on track. Digression comes too easily; and interesting as a new path might seem, its inclusion may disrupt your flow. Stay focused—yet be open to suggestions by your characters. Let them to tell you their story; they may choose a route that works better than yours. It’s okay to change the blueprint if the new design improves the story. For example, the antagonist in my first book changed my planned ending. Had I not let him show me the path he needed to take, I would have forced a climax that didn’t work nearly as well as his.
Do you create “blueprints”? Have your characters ever changed your story?