Last Movie Watched: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Latest Song on the iPod: Beyond The Sea by Robbie Williams
So starts my series of weekly posts on writing a novel in three months. These are a comprehensive approach to the way I write a book but there’s one caveat – it’s my way which means it may or may not work for you. It’s by no means the only way of writing, nor is it the best/comfortable/logical for everyone. But with every book I write, I come to better understand my process, the how I write, which in turn, curbs my annoying habit of procrastinating when a deadline looms.
I’m a plotter by necessity: my editor needs to know what my story’s about before a contract is offered. This doesn’t mean the story cannot veer from its original synopsis – generally, if I make it work, everyone’s happy. And for me, having a synopsis/story outline is like driving with a map. Without one, I may get to where I’m going but there’s going to be a hell of a lot of detours, time wasted on wrong turns and the inevitable doubling back. Takes me twice as long 😥 so you can see, I’d rather not waste all that writing time!
So let’s begin, shall we?
I’m going to assume you have your writing space and time carved out, ready to write. So the first thing that comes to mind for me are my main characters, specifically, the hero and heroine. Their names may (and often do!) change, but generally, their occupations, goal/s, motivation and conflict don’t. So, in around 1-2 pages, I fill in the following:
BOOK TITLE: Don’t stress about this – I normally just call it after the character’s names to start.
HOOK/S: (e.g. boss/secretary romance, marriage of convenience, secret baby, lovers reunited etc). For single title writers, this can be your ‘high concept’ line – e.g. male Beauty and female Beast in Regency England. Crime-solving Ghost Whisperer set in New York. Ex-CIA female assassin must save the world from a vampire President.
SETTING: where the story takes place
TIMEFRAME: over what months/years the actual book takes place
BRIEF BACK COVER BLURB DESCRIPTION: think two paragraphs of short, sharp grab – if you get stuck, head off to the local bookstore or go online to read up on some already-published blurbs.
HERO NAME: age, height, hair/eye color, physical description, family affiliations, career, basic character traits
HERO’S GMC: goal (what they want most in life), motivation (why they want it) conflict (who/what is standing in their way).
Let’s talk about this for a bit. A goal is a want or a desire and can be either internal or external… preferably both. External is generally something tangible (money, house, new job, family or person); internal is something inside the character they may not even know they’re striving for (true love, belonging, acceptance). A while back I did a workshop on GMC (I’ll post notes on my website shortly!) and made a comprehensive list of wants. They go something like this:
- Unconditional Love
- Status quo
Motivation – is all about why they do what they do. I keep a quote above my computer: “the key to strong motivation lies in the character’s past”. Characters can and do make choices that readers wouldn’t make themselves, and the key to keeping that reader vested in your story, you must lay down enough groundwork (i.e. backstory), for them to understand and empathize with those decisions.
Conflict – This isn’t about fighting, arguments or bickering between your characters, but rather obstacles or roadblocks in your character’s way. It can be a difference of beliefs (he’s a vampire, she’s doesn’t believe the undead should have rights), loyalties (she wants revenge for her father’s death, he killed her father), lifestyle choices (she wants kids, he doesn’t) or even differing goals (she wants to find the Atlantis treasure to pay off her dead husband’s debts, he wants to share history with the world).
HERO’S CORE BELIEF: This is extremely important, especially when you come to write your black moment/redemption scene. A ‘core belief” is a statement or motto your character lives by which they believe to be true. for e.g. “Love means losing control”, “happiness cannot be bought” or “all non-humans are an abomination and must be eliminated”. It doesn’t mean it is true, only that they believe it to be so. And this comes about through good and bad events in their lives which then shapes their choices (both subconscious and conscious) , influences their career, love interest/s and the way they interact with friends, family and colleagues. We see this happen in real life through children who’ve been abandoned, abused, gone through trauma… and even ones who’ve had a comparatively uneventful childhood. And so it should be for your characters. For example, Cal Prescott’s core belief in The Magnate’s Baby Promise was “walking away is not an option”, a deeply ingrained belief that he has to address by the end of the book.
HEROINE NAME: same as per above.
HEROINE’S CORE BELIEF: same as per above.
I also like to use visuals on my WIP board – the h/h’s homes, anything important to the story, and of course, actual photos of what they look like. Currently, I have a picture of Zac’s yummy Gold Coast apartment, a pair of to-die-for high heel sandals that he buys my heroine, Emily, and what I envision they look like – Eddie Cahill (left, as Zac) and a cute blonde model (Emily) I found in the Ezibuy catalogue 😀
So that’s your task for this week. Your characters. I’d love to have some of you post your summaries. If you have any questions or get stuck, feel free to yell and I’ll do my best to answer!