Some readers have asked me, "What do you do once you get an idea? Where do you go from there? What do you do with it? As you can imagine, every writer is different ( excuse the cliche'). I don't know what others do but when I get an idea, something inside me "tells" me 'you're on to something.' And I become aware that the idea has a premise that could lead to a good, hopefully, a great story.
What would happen when a shark swims into a resort area and attacks a vacationer? This is the premise for the movie, "Jaws." Where did Steven Spielberg go with his premise? Well, he made it into a story -- a series of events carried out by characters -- and finally into his thriller movie. So, I look for a premise by asking, "What if?" Hopefully, my premise will develop into a story for one of my next novels. How do I proceed from there? What do I do with the premise?
I begin by churning events over in my mind from the premise. Then when the "feeling" urges me on, I sit at the computer and write in the present tense a step-by-step description of events that will make up my story. This becomes my outline, my plotting outline. Plot is defined as the sequence of events (scenes) interrelated through cause and effect; one scene leads to another in a logical fashion. One event has to arise out from the previous event. A writer cannot plop an event into the middle of a flow of events just to make something happen. The reader would hit a roadblock and would wonder, what in the world just happened?
Next, I take my plot outline, which usually consists of 10-12 pages, and I treat it. I do what Hollywood calls a "Treatment," which is a very useful tool. What is it? Suffice it to say, it is an expansion of each event from my plot outline into one or two or three paragraphs. The treatment itself varies in the number of pages. In Hollywood, a treatment is around 80-90 or more double-spaced pages, covering around 46-50 chapters. I remember my treatment for 72 Hours was 96 pages. My treatment for the novel I'm working on now, The Tongue Collector, is 46 pages, covering 52 chapters but I know there will be more to come as I continue to expand the chapters. The treatment puts the story into perspective for me so I can "see" and "feel" the events properly flowing in sequence.
When I finish my treatment, I take from it events (scenes) and turn them into chapters. For example, I start with the first scene in the treatment as Chapter One, and then I write more in the chapter by adding environment, feelings, and motivations for characters as they appear. All the while, I keep my treatment and plot outline by my computer as I write.
I've oversimplified this a little because I didn't mention that before I write my first chapter, I've completed my characterization -- sociology, psychology, and physical description of each major character. I don't do them for minor characters. I've also determined what each character wants -- his/her goals -- and what each will need to do to reach those goals. Also, I give them names so I can develop a relationship with them. It would be difficult for me to begin writing a word until I know what my characters want to accomplish. Characters must oppose each other, to get into conflict. One of the most important essentials in a novel is Conflict, Conflict, and more Conflict.
I'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT WHEN I WAS YOUNG. Not too long ago, I overheard a few young women complaining about cooking and the chores they had to do in their kitchens and in their homes. With the conveniences we have today, we tend to forget what our mothers, grandmot [...]