Thursday, 26 July 2012

Starting A Novel With A Story Idea

Some people are planners and like to plot out their novels from start to finish, before they write a word.  Some are pantsers, writing into the blue without any plan, flying by the seat of their pants, and most of us will be somewhere in between.  It doesn't matter.  What does matter is that you need to start is an idea - but not just any idea.  You need a story idea.

A story idea suggests future developments.  So, you have an idea about a group of friends at a wedding - I choose  this because this is the idea I started off with.  The trouble is, a group of friends at a wedding doesn't suggest anything much in terms of story.  

You need to put in some conflict.  A group of friends at a wedding, one of whom is in love with the bride.  Immediately that suggests story development.  Who is the friend? Who is the bride?  Why does he/she love her?  Why is she marrying someone else?  Does the friend know the groom?  What is their relationship with the groom?  What is he/she going to do at the wedding?

You can recognise a good idea because it suggests lots of questions that you need to answer.  And in answering the questions, you write a novel.


Jean Bull said...

You make it sound so easy!

Jim Murdoch said...

I suppose it all depends on what you mean by ‘start’. None of my five novels started with a story idea. They started with a person in a setting. The questions I found myself asking were, 1) Who are they? and 2) What are they doing there? The story developed as I wrote. So you could argue that I didn’t ‘start’ the story until that stage but that’s not how it felt to me. When I began my novel Milligan and Murphy I had one line: “Milligan and Murphy were brothers” and that was it; I spent the next two pages describing their origins but it wasn’t until the end of the first chapter when they encounter the old tramp on the way out of town that I got the idea for their story. Everyone writes differently. I’ve heard Pinter talk about how he often starts, with a voice or two voices saying something; he has no idea who they are (not even their gender), where they are or what they are to each other. I would love to be a plotter. To my mind they have it so much easier once that outline is written; in my mind all they do then is fill in the blanks. I know I’m oversimplifying but the grass is always greener. I never know when I start out if there is any point to what I’m doing and I don’t usually until I’m halfway through; by then other doubts set it.

Sarah Duncan said...

It IS easy Jean - you just need to ask questions, and then answer them in the writing.

Jim, the person in the story prompted questions which is the main thing, and you wrote as you answered them. I must admit that like you I assume life is easier as a plotter who just has to 'fill in the blanks', tho I'm sure it isn't really. But I can't do it.