Thursday, September 2, 2010

How I Begin a Book

Well... it’s different for most books, or at least most ideas. Sometimes, a character speaks to me and demands that her (or his) story be told. This is most usual with my mystery series. Others, a situation screams at me to tell about it dramatically. This is most often how my paranormal ideas come about.

For individual stories, such as those within a series, my mind’s always working on what comes next for my characters. As always, my subconscious is most prolific at night, while I’m in the bathtub, and when I get out I jot down ideas on notecards. (I started writing this even before Monica’s post yesterday!) Those, if I can read them the next day, I transcribe onto the computer.

When I first started writing, I had to plot out every story minutely. I came up with detailed scene lists and followed them as I wrote--on the order of outlines, but since I wasn’t sure how many scenes would fit into each chapter they evolved as scene lists. Today, I write a synopsis for each story so I know where it’s going, and then sometimes remember to refer to the synopsis when I’m stuck while writing the story.

Best I can say is that it’s an evolving process. Fortunately, it always somehow seems to work.

At the moment, I have a paranormal thriller idea that’s circling my brain but I’ve been under deadlines and haven’t been able to satisfy that wannabe character’s demands to get her story started. One of these days, though...

I do tend to listen to my characters, BTW. Like Kendra Ballantyne, the protagonist of my Pet-Sitter Mystery series, the protagonist of my new spinoff Pet Rescue mystery series, Lauren Vancouver, wanted me to write it in first person so she could speak her mind. Her voice is different from Kendra’s. I enjoy them both!

Do you find that your processes evolve as time goes on?


Camille Minichino said...

Definitely evolving, outlining as I go, in a way. I've never been able to plot everything out at the beginning. I need to live with the characters and see what they'll do in certain situations.

I feel "sloppy" (!), but as you say, if the process is working, we go with it.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Not sloppy at all, Camille. It's more like real life, where flexibility matters in changed circumstances.

Betty Hechtman said...

I get some of my best lines of dialogue when I'm in the bathtub. Then I have to keep saying them over and over until I get out and can write them down.

Janie Emaus said...

My characters talk to me while I'm driving.

Linda O. Johnston said...

That's a good way to refine your dialogue, Betty.

I hope, Janie, that you don't look like you're talking on your cell phone in California when you answer your characters back!