Hi RFW members and guests. First, a message for all! Our December 2 Challenge is not that far away, so I'm reminding our members to get those stories/poems underway, and invite anyone who'd like to participate in the challenge to take the image for your sidebar, prepare your post, then sign up with the linky here on December 1st!
Challenge - December 2nd. Respond to this image in story/poetic form. 600 words maximum. Check out our Challenge Page above for more stimulus/details.
Now, over to our guest Kate Walker.
TRAINING YOURSELF AS A PLOTTER
TRAINING YOURSELF AS A PLOTTER
Today I'm taking a brief look at one of those questions - the one that every writer gets asked (often more than once) at every stage of their careers. And the question is:
Where do you get your ideas?
The honest answer is 'Life' - I have often tried to persuade my accountant that life is a claimable expense for a novelist but sadly I haven't yet managed it. But every day I see, hear or read something that interests me, intrigues me, amuses me and I often spend time wondering how I can work it into a novel.
So here are some of the tips and techniques I use when trying to come up with a new idea. Because, believe me, after 60 books, it can be difficult to think of something fresh and interesting - and something I want to write. I always work from the characters and their motivations, but I have to have some ideas as a ‘setting’ – a place to put them and a reason to start them off on their journey.
Filling the imagination ‘well’
Read Read Read – learn the plots that make successful romances – or any other type of story - in the past and in the present – and the ones that have failed
Think about them – which ones can you still use?
Which ones will need changing to make them work today?
How? In my own line, things like the use of condoms – for sexual health as well as contraception, scans, DNA tests have all changed the so-called ‘secret baby’ story from the way it used to be when I first started writing.
So if you take those changes into account to make it more believable for today – how does that change the story and change the characters’ motivations and actions?
How could you turn a plot on its head?
For example -
Have her kidnap him instead of having him kidnap her? (I did this in Captive Lover 1987)
She wants the marriage of convenience and sets the terms for it – or thinks she does. ( The Hired Husband 1999). Changing the person who initiates the action changes the whole perspective, the balance of the set up and so makes everything develop along a very different path.
But of course you will always have to consider that most important question of all – the question WHY – why would this happen? Why would your character do this?
Take a different fork in the road
Watch soaps/dramas/films – stop it halfway – or at the end of the episode – ask yourself:
Where is it going?
Who will end up with whom?
What conflict/problem/sudden revelation/black moment is the writer going to bring in?
How could you do it differently?
What twists could you bring in?
Who could they end up with instead?
What if . . .?
People watch – in reality and in print
Read newspapers/magazines/watch people stories on TV – use them as your characters - see if you can see what will happen – check it against reality.
I once switched the radio on when I was about to do some ironing and I heard a man say ‘when I first held my son it meant so much because I was an abandoned baby and never knew my parents. So, alone of everyone in the world, he was the only other person who had my blood in his veins.’ I just switched off the iron(No hard decision there!) and went to write down that line and all the ideas that it had sparked off in my head for a story that would involve all those emotions he was talking about.
How could you rework a fairy story –
Beauty and the Beast?
Or a classic ?
Pride and Prejudice?
I just reworked Wuthering Heights for my new novel The Return of the Stranger and it was an amazing challenge. There are no truly original plots in the whole of fiction so you can’t hope to be desperately original – but you can be authentic and put your personal spin on an old story so making it fresh and new.
With every story you read, watch, hear - think about what was behind it, who is involved, why it happened - and consider what will happen next. Very soon just a phrase or even a name can spark you off. I know. I once wrote a book (long ago) simply because I was determined to get into the story the line 'I don't know who the hell you are, but you're certainly not my wife!' I did it too. That was in a book I wrote years ago - way back in 1988 - Chase the Dawn and I still get letters about that novel.
And the winner of Kate's novel from last week's post is Madeleine Maddocks! Congratulations Madeleine, and would you contact Kate via her website? Enjoy!
Thank you Kate. I learnt so much and I'm sure you have too. Thanks for sharing. Also thanks to my good mate Nas Dean from Romance Book Paradise in Fiji who answered my call for a guest poster. I think Nas has done us proud.