Book 2 and Book 3 of the Anima Trilogy have been delivered to my lovely editor, which means we are one critical step closer to publishing!
Sometimes, I have scenes spontaneously appear in my mind that replay consistently throughout the day. I don’t know the characters, I don’t know the story, but a distinct bit of dialogue, a feeling, a circumstance. Now, I’ve written here on my blog before that I don’t believe writing has any magical aspect to it–I still don’t. So, these scenes must sprout from my subconscious.
The thing is, I like making up theoretical situations and having characters act on opposing sides, then seeing where the conversation goes. What can motivate those opinions? What sort of justifications can those characters make up to support their actions?
But I’m not talking about these moments of writing–or rather of thinking. I’m talking about these scenes that spontaneously pop into my head, those which I haven’t purposefully pursued.
Human nature has always fascinated me. In high school, I took all the psychology classes that were offered, and eventually double majored in it with creative writing at university.
Why does anyone do anything? As a writer, that’s a critical question, since a character has to be motivated, even if it’s a basic desire, such as hunger. I guess my curiosity branched from myself, then outward.
But still, these scenes that come unprovoked. Are these questions that I’m too afraid to approach head-on? The goal to these isn’t to find an answer, but to explore motivation. So then, are these the unjustifiable motivations that irk me?
I don’t know. All I know is that these unprompted scenes are the ones that tend to stick with me and demand to be written, and I listen.
What about other writers out there? Have you ever had a similar experience with scenes coming unbidden?
HAPPY NEW YEAR! How is it already January 7th? I had planned on making a post closer to the new year, but, here we are.
Okay, so you have your character. Now what? Where do you go from here? The next step is asking yourself the Big Question: What does my character want? This is the most important question because it will dictate the plot, but more on that later. If the author doesn’t know the character’s motivation, it will be apparent to the reader that the character is a loose cannon, and the story will suffer. In every scene, as the writer, you should ask this question (“What does my character want?”) and answer it. If you can’t answer it, something needs to be edited, added, or clarified.
What drives my character? What halts my character? Both of these questions are dictated by motivation. There are two different types of motivation: main motivations (main plots) and little motivations (subplots).
The main motivation or The Big M is something that takes the whole novel to be answered. (**Side note: The Big M may not always end with what is deemed as a “success,” but might actually be a “failure”—that’s okay. Both of these are acceptable answers to the Big Question.) The Big M is the reason we—the readers and writers—are compelled to continue reading or writing.
Examples of Big Ms: finding a career path, someone to love, God; going on an adventure; accepting death. If you aren’t sure what your character wants, go back to those key personality adjectives (check out my previous blog post for more on that). If you’re still stuck, try googling master lists of character motivations—or Pinterest. Think of the classic conflicts too, like Man v. Man or Man v. Technology, etc. The main motivation will also be something that in a series will transfer to the next book as the or a component of the series arc. This will also dictate your characters’ growth.
The little motivations or “Little Ms” are things that can be solved easily in a scene or two. These can be base needs, like food or taking a nap, or little conflicts between characters. They can also be subplots, but within a series, should be solved by the end of each novel.
Motivations can also be negative (called aversions). This is only a strong NOT wanting. For example, let’s say your character wants to get into a specific University, so then the motivation becomes NOT wanting to be rejected. Think: What does my character not want to happen? Another way to look at this is through fear. What is my character afraid might happen?
Your main character has to yearn for something, and that yearning will determine the scope of the plot (to be explored in another post). Once you’ve decided your character—or characters—the next question will be, is my character going to get X (Big M) by the end of the novel (“success” or “failure”)? Determine this and you can start plotting!
You can also start writing without having this all figured out, but with a clear motivation in mind as you write, the plot will become clearer and clearer as the steps to accomplishment or failure will seem obvious.
Motivations also help us shape our characters’ morals and values, but that’s a topic for another day!
“How do you write a story?” “Where does your inspiration come from?” I’m asked various versions of these questions anytime I tell someone that I’m a writer. Well, where does a writer get the inspiration for a story (whether it be a short story or novel or poem)?
This is how it happens: the writer goes to a quiet place and pleads to the muses…
NOT! Ha! Ha!
The truth lies somewhere in the middle: writing is both magical and ordinary. While we don’t have to make sacrifices to the muses, sometimes inspiration does come spontaneously—but sometimes, it doesn’t. One of the greatest arenas for potential inspiration is in the writer’s own life, the lives of others, or prompts. A great exercise when I’m feeling a little lost in a story is to take a random word and write for five or ten minutes on that word. Whatever comes to mind—no crossing anything out (or backspacing)!
So, how does the story process begin? Normally for me, I have an immediate image of a character and a scene. I have an idea of who the character is and what the situation is, but often I don’t know the particulars, like the main story arc or the character’s back story—those come once I start writing in earnest. See, a story doesn’t always start at the beginning. Sometimes, you start in the middle—or even at the end!
The most important part is to write the initial scene as quickly as you can. Don’t get caught up in the immediate barrage of unknowns. If I’m not sure about a particular detail, say, the main character’s name, then I put that in caps and fill it in later. Or, just write (or type) BLAH BLAH and move on to the part of the scene that you do know! Once I’ve got that initial scene written, then I read through and write all the questions, usually on a big legal pad, that immediately pop up. Questions will vary depending on how detailed the scene and how filled out the character is, but some of the questions may sound like:
-Where is my character going? Why are they here? What brought my character here?
-What does my character ultimately desire? What motivates them? What is unique about my character?
-Who is coming along on this journey? Who are their antagonists? Who/what is the villain?
And…you might not have the answer right away for some of these—that’s okay.
You have a character and context; you’re on the precipice of something big! This is where the story begins.
This is also where my first blog series begins. Characters and Plots(—yes, I capitalized plots on purpose here). For me, the two are inseparable, but for the purpose of this blog series I will be separating them as best I can.
Topics I’d like to discuss:
Flat v Round
Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary characters
Traits (strengths and flaws)
Physical Appearance and Naming
3 Ball Juggling Act
I will tag these posts as I write them, so at the end there can be an easy way to search for whatever it is you are looking for.
I hope you follow along and I welcome suggests for other topics or questions!