Plotting: the Outline vs. Winging it

BunnyHello there. I am a plot bunny. I maybe be cute and cuddly and oh-so-full of great detail about your story, but I’m going to be a stumbling block to your stories, and I also lead to plot holes down the road. Don’t you love me?

For those of you who may be the “write as you go” people, you know exactly what I am talking about. You start off with a great idea and have so much inspiration that you begin to pen or type it out as much as possible. I had several ideas pop into my head that I had to rewrite sections of my last story for, and due to complete revamp, I’ve majorly rewritten my current FanFiction about three times now.

As for the other half of you who probably don’t experience this a lot, I’m going to say that you’re probably more of the type that like to plan out each individual step in a story before even creating the first word. I find that the best mysteries are always written this way, because you can slip in little bits of foreshadowing subtly in the earlier pages, causing an “oh-my-gosh-no-way” moment for the reader once they finally get all of the answers. For the novel I’m currently working on, I’m kinda branching into this more, because I’m usually a write as you go person, and I think I kinda like it. I have start to put together the actual story however, so who knows how long I’ll be able to keep plotting and refrain from simply writing everything I think of into the story.

Either way, both methods are very useful. For some people they stick one way or the other, for others they couldn’t really care less either way, and then as I mentioned, some genres of books kinda need the outlining method in order to work well. I’d encourage you to try either way to figure out what is best for you. If you just start writing and then inspiration dies out, perhaps plot out in the future a bit and you’ll get that spark back. If you want to make sure you have every base covered, plotting out the entire thing is your best bet, a bare bones sketch of the major events first, and then begin writing in the meat of the story.

What was your name again?

Once again, another late-night post, but I’m not really complaining. I don’t know why I always feel like writing at night, it’s kinda weird actually since I’m a morning person. But whatever.

Anyways, tonight I thought I’d get into what can sometimes be the hardest part of creating a new plot or storyline: what to call your characters and what to call the book itself.

I kind of like naming characters, I find it quite fun. For the most part, I end up trying to give the name meaning relevant to where (I think) the character is going to go in his or her tale. Looking up name meanings is usually my first step, and once I’ve found a good one that I think fits, I head on over to a last name generator. I don’t give as much focus to the last name besides researching what nationality it is and things like that.

The unfortunate part is, that really only works if I’m writing characters in a modern-day setting. When you’re working with a past setting or one in the future, that has to be taken into consideration. Look up names that were common in your time period if it has already passed, and if you’re going futuristic, that’s where it gets tricky. Just as the names from even ten or twenty years ago are different, future names are probably going to be at least a bit different than ours. Maybe not completely, but a slight variation is pretty much unavoidable. For the main story I’m currently working on, I have a time frame about two hundred years in the future, and as a result have had to create most of my names from scratch or draw them from unlikely sources.

Another thing to think about with your story is “what the heck am I going to call this?” A title has to be at least a bit unique in order to stand out on that shelf in the library or on websites like GoodReads, catching someone’s attention as best as possible. Also, if someone is trying to search for your book and it comes up with a common title, it’ll just be that much harder to find.

In my opinion, it’s definitely easier to find a name after you’ve planned or written out the entire course of the story. I’m one of those people that writes and adds as they go rather than outlines everything first, so you can see why that would make sense. To find the right title, think about exactly what your book is about, what themes have become prominent in its story. Is is a chick-lit style book that’s cutesy and romantic, or a sci-fi/action page-turner? Both have completely different ideas and should have completely different titles.

For both character names and book titles, I like to keep a running list of ones I’ve thought of that I like. I might not use them for a while, there are a few that have been on the list for upwards of at least a year without use, but when the time comes they’ll be there for consideration.

Hope you’ve enjoyed yet another tidbit of what I’ve learned as a writer over the years. Your time is much appreciated, and I hope you’ve liked what you’ve read. See you all later 🙂

Three steps to better characters

Hello there fellow writers/readers! I’m on spring break this week, so my mood has been drastically improved with all of this time to get everything done. I hope your week has been going just as well!

Today I’d like to take a stab at what are essentially the lifeblood of a story, characters. This part can make or break your story just as much as the plot itself, so don’t be afraid to put a lot, and I mean A LOT, of effort into them. When you are able to created beautiful characters that are so real they could live next door to you, then you’ve mastered the art. But for those of us who haven’t, including myself at times, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • No one is perfect. No one. Not even your superhuman, scientifically-engineered-to-be-perfect character in your newest sci-fi fic. They will have a drawback, an achilles heel, somewhere, otherwise it would be impossible for them to encounter plausible opposition. Whether it’s a longing for a relationship in a romance that gets your guy/gal into a questionable partnership or a lack of humanity in the aforementioned sci-fi story, they will need something that can bring them down. Any character that hinges on mary-sue status (perfect character with no faults or downfalls) needs to either be revamped into a better idea or thrown into the furnace of discarded ideas.
  • Characters don’t have just one side to them. There’s a part that everyone sees, maybe part of them only their family sees, and things they will not tell anyone at all. Revealing everything at once to your reader could not only be overwhelming but is impractical and can lose their attention quite quickly.
  • There is always a motivation somewhere for whatever actions your characters are taking. They can’t do something ‘just because’, since even if they say that, there was a reason somewhere.
    • This can get especially important with your villains. Are they completely, 100% evil and insane and just doing what they’re doing because? Are they reluctantly following orders? Are they legitimately thinking that they’re doing the right thing?

This isn’t a foolproof list of things to consider when creating new people, but hopefully I’ve given you a few starting points to build the next protagonist, antagonist, or side character in your story.

Happy writing! 🙂

Five things to kickstart your world building

How many of you have read a good book that had the most beautifully crafted fictional worlds around? I’m not talking the realistic fiction set in this time period, I’m talking Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia collection, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Roth’s Divergent trilogy, books like those. A story is only as good as the world it’s set in, and those ones in particular were perfected with so much detail.

In my own writing career (if you could call it that), I haven’t really strayed into fantasy or sci-fi or anything like that that would necessitate world building (creating a whole new world basically). But recently, an idea popped into my head that I haven’t worked on yet for one reason: I have to create a whole new world for it (and now a certain Disney song is stuck in my head). Sorry, ADD moment. Anyways, I have an app on my phone called A Novel Idea. Look it up, it’s been very helpful in this sense. I’ve had to create a map of the land, figure out how the government works, create a new way of schooling and add so many details to the way people live their everyday lives. I even have a running list of names that I believe would fit into the world. But the more I get into, the more interesting it becomes. I don’t want to make the government evil without reason, because behind (most) villains is a person who genuinely might be trying to do the right thing, just with wrong methods.

It’s definitely a new experience, but even so I would like to share some things for you to keep in mind if you ever find yourself starting from scratch with your setting.

  • Does their life resemble ours in any way (think dystopian like Divergent) or is it completely different (think fantasy like Narnia)?
  • If it does, then it’ll be easier, though you do have to tweak a fair few things depending on how far in the future things are and how much society has changed. If it doesn’t, then you’re in for a lot more work. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it’s gonna be a bit of time.
  • Keep in mind the terrain and the countries where your characters actually live. What is the weather like? The land? Is it flat and dry or hilly and rainy?
  • How does school work? Are children required? Is it a choice? Is there even school at all?
  • What governing system do your characters live under? Totalitarian? Democratic? Theocratic? Republican?

That’s just a few questions to give you a kick-start onto creating a world. As the ideas come to your mind, don’t hesitate to write them down, I know there’s been moments where I’ve either written something down and come back to realize I’d forgotten about it or not done so and forgotten important details. More on taking notes and recording details of your stories later, a school presentation calls.

Happy writing 🙂

Three ways to break through writer’s block

So how often is it that you sit down at the computer (I would say with a pencil and paper but unless you’re writing a timed essay for class, no one really does that anymore) and have no clue how to start whatever paper you need to write or how to get the idea in your head onto a document? Annoying, right? I’d venture to say so. Sometimes I’ll relax on my bed meaning to work on the scholarship paper or wanting to add more to my newest work of fiction, but nothing comes. It’s like there’s a tap of creativity and it’s stuck in the off position. Then, of course, there’s other times like now that I have words flowing left and right. I suppose it all depends on the mood you’re in.
If you’ll have me, I’ll share some of the ways I’ve been able to beat the dreaded arch-nemesis of writers: the accursed writer’s block!

  • As far as actually writing goes, you could always start off with a random prompt and just straight write every thought (called free-writing) and see where that takes you. Personally, that’s never really worked for be, but be my guest and try it out if you’d like.
  • I like to listen to music when I write most of the time, though right now I’m listening to silence as I’ve just not felt like turning it on. When I used to writing fan fiction (still do at times, but I prefer to read it rather than write), I would look up music from that specific fandom to listen to in order to inspire me.
  • I also keep a running collection of ideas on my phone, so maybe if the idea you sat down to write with isn’t flowing, you can try another one for a little bit and then come back with new ideas. It’s worth a shot.

If you guys have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them. I currently have my baby brother lying on my shoulder which is making hard to type though, so I’m going to have to sign off and post again at a later date. Ciao!