Opening A Novel

I… I don’t think I really need to say that this isn’t about how to physically open a book with your hands… But to anyone who is looking for advice on how to do so, I’m sorry to disappoint. So, I was reading through a few openings of stories on the internet and I just had to make this post. You can thank the large amount of poor openings out there for the existence of what is sure to be yet another post of killer advice.

Chapter one. How the hell do you start it? This is essentially what this is going to be about. I’m sure I’m going to mention some points that came up in my prologue post, and I’m sure I’m going to mention points that some of you will think is just plain common sense, but that doesn’t stop them from occurring, so with nothing further to add, let’s just get right down to it.

Firstly, let’s get exposition out of the way. Both as a point and a feature of story openings. I would hope that we all know that it’s a poor idea to introduce your reader to your story by drowning them in a large wall of text about the world that they would not yet have any reason to care about. It’s such a basic point that I don’t think I even need to say more on it.

Going straight in with the action. The other end of the extreme. Sure, on paper… well, theoretically it sounds great starting a story with a high-octane car chase or an all out fight between two opposing parties, but it shares the same problem as just drowning the reader in exposition. Who are these people and why should I care about them? If you could apply a decent amount of context then it could become a pretty good way to open a story. Between this and exposition, if you were to pick one side I would say action is clearly the way to go, but of course a good balance between them is clearly better.

“Hi, my name’s John Smith and if you were to learn one thing from me, it’s to never subject your story to the grossness that is this opening.” Good god… This might just be a personal issue of mine, but in a first person story where the protagonist introduces themselves in the first line in any way such as my perfect example, it is a sure fire way to get me to put that book down and save my money. Find any other way to introduce your character and their name. Anything other than something so cheap as this.

Which brings me onto my next point. Now… keeping information from the reader is great and all, but there are some things that a reader does kind of need to know. There reaches a point when being mysterious becomes being ridiculous. There’s only so long you can go on referring to your POV character as “The man”, or “The woman”. For the love of God we need names! This is one thing that you should give to your reader as soon as possible without it coming across as… well… stupid, like the example in the previous point. It may not seem important but it can be frustrating reading about a character when you don’t even know their name.

Mundane conversations or actions. It goes without saying that your opening shouldn’t bore your reader, so why would they want to read about boring situations, like waking up or having breakfast? You don’t have to start the story at the start of the day when next to nothing of interest happens.

Finally–and while this isn’t exclusive to openings it’s still one that I read in far too many of them–the main character looking at themselves in the mirror and describing themselves in unnecessary, creepy, narcissistic detail. I mean really… Have you ever looked in a mirror and commented on every single feature you could see? Am I the only one who doesn’t do this? I would imagine not, so I would imagine a lot more people also find this way of describing characters (to use what is fast becoming my favourite word on this blog) ridiculous.

Thus ends another post for another week. Another week in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with weekly content. So, I may be back next week, and if I am you can be sure that it is legitimately going to be awful.

Until next week… (Don’t look forward to it)

Laurence out.

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My Take On Planning

Greetings everyone! It’s been just over a week and I’m back for another one. That’s some real diligence right there. I don’t expect this to be of any real quality or use to anyone, but at least I’m not being absent for months on end.

Anywhos, you could all probably guess what this one’s going to be about. The wonderful, most bestest and funnest part of novel writing, the planning stage. But maybe I’m being a little unfair. It’s not that it isn’t fun… per se, but holy poop can planning a novel be highly frustrating! Especially if while you are planning, your mind is doing a wonderful job of trying to just keep forcing you to put more and more ideas into the story, already running rampant with ridiculousness. Well, this is going to be about what I do when planning and outlining. I repeat: this is going to be about what I do when I’m planning and outlining. I am in no way endorsing this as a guide for everyone else, because it’s probably… No. It’s definitely horrible, and I only know how to plan for myself. I guess I’ll just get right to it then. So first on the agenda:

The basic plot.

A stupid point. A stupid, stupid point. I mean, what writer goes into a story without at least a basic plot? Even a vague idea for a plot? Nevertheless, it’s still a point. A stupid point. But a valid point. And the starting point when writing or planning a novel.

The characters.

I won’t go into detail because this could probably make up an entire blog post on its own, but every story needs a cast… (I don’t know why I like point out the blindingly obvious today…) This is one of the first things that I actually start to write down in the early planning stage, but initially, most of what it would be is just the names.

The setting

I’m not going to say something stupid again, like every story needs a setting. But every story does need a place in which the events of your story unfold. Now, how you go about planning this varies from genre to genre. For example, unless you’re writing any form of speculative fiction, world building is kind of a non-issue. You would just have to do a little research on wherever your story is set and try to get things accurate.

If your story is speculative fiction, then chances are your setting isn’t going to be as easily researched… as it wouldn’t exist. At least, not as we know it. So, how you would go about creating your world or city or town would be entirely up to you, and depend on whether you’re changing an existing place or creating one of your own. What I did with my current work in progress was first decide whether I wanted to create my own city or use an existing one. Since I made my own, I then wrote down the main towns in the story and all that important stuff in them. And then, so I could visualise it better, I drew some outrageously amazing  maps that serves no other purpose than to make me wonder why I’m not a professional artist… Just…. Just don’t look at my last blog post.

The characters…

What? I already said the characters? Of course I didn’t. That would just be crazy.

After writing the setting I’d then have a better sense for the plot and thus, a better idea of my characters. While at first I’d have just listed down the names, now I’d include much more unnecessary detail. After all, I need characters to bring the plot to life to life, and I’ll start, of course, with the main characters; you know, the protagonist(s), antagonist(s), the close family and friends of those characters, the regular friends… the distant family… uh… and the random characters that don’t even get a passing mention… Look. Don’t judge me.

Relationships.

More specifically, romantic relationships. Now, I have a lot of characters, and by “a lot”, I of course mean “a crap ton”. So, I keep a record of whose involved with who, who used to be involved with who before the start of the novel, who breaks up and gets together within the series, and I split that up into either one of the characters dying and the characters just simply breaking up; I have the married characters, of course, and finally the pairs that go under the “weird, crazy drama” category. Some of this just serves backstory purposes that probably won’t get mentioned, and only a few of the couples are actually sub plots, but hey… When I plan, I freakin’ plan everything there is to plan… Don’t follow my example.

The characters… Again.

Don’t judge me… It may not be efficient, but… Alright, fine. It’s stupid.

Now, I would do the character profiles again, instead this time, only with the actually important characters, and with less fields to fill in. Because I want my first character section to be quick to flick through, I don’t include things that would take up multiple pages, like personality, or backstory, so this is where that would come in, and only for the main… and pretty important characters.

So, let’s step back and go over what we’ve learned. First, I come up with the basic plot, then list down the names of the characters I think I will need. I then go on to creating the setting, including what “important stuff” would be in my created worlds… many of which don’t get mentioned. Next is the characters again, this time in more detail… a lot of which doesn’t get mentioned. The relationships between the couples and ex-partners and whatnot, and then we’re back to the characters once more… this time to sort out personalities and backstory.

And all before I’ve even begun to write the outline…

Next! The outline.

This is what I would really need when writing. How people write without them is beyond me. I’d reach a wall, give up and start again if I didn’t have an outline. And I’d keep doing that until the point where I would consider writing to be the absolute worst way to waste my time. Henceforth, outlines exist to prevent me from hating writing with a burning passion. I’m the kind of person who outlines more or less everything… or at least as much as I can without actually ending up writing the story. Because no matter how vague I’d try to keep the outline, I’d always end up including more detail as I go along. So now I just outline by the chapter.

And that’s it. That’s how I plan my stories. Now I’d be ready to finally start the first draft of what would quite possibly be a future best seller if by some stroke of luck every other author vanished off the face of the Earth. Now it would be time to get into the real pain in the butt and write that novel.

Well… I guess I should stop procrastinating and actually finish my plan, huh?

Until my next pointless blog post.

Laurence out,

Let’s Be Honest, Here…

This blog is kind of turning into a joke. I think it’s coming up to four months since my last post. I think that might be a new record for me. I’ve already let a third of a year pass, but I flat out refuse to let half a year go by without posting here, so…

Hello! Hello! I’m back again and ready to update all you lovely people on my writing endeavours. But before we get to how much of an obvious failure that was, let me just say that despite being a retake student, being in my last year of college… again, and being in the last few months before exam season, I still think I’m going to be far more active on this blog… But then that really wouldn’t take much, anyway. How would a post a week sound? How about something other than my constant whining about how awful my writing is coming along? How about some actual structure in what I post? How about some consistency? I mean, come on! Where’s the professionalism? Well… Me and professionalism are two things that just don’t seem to go hand in hand. But as laughable and unlikely as it does sound, I do intend to make this blog something other than… whatever the hell it is now. So…

Onto the writing. Onto the one thing that I am consistent about. Because, if you asked me how the writing was coming along in the past four months, I would just look at you blank-faced and try not to break out in laughter. If you asked me if I have at least finished planning my series, I would just look at you blank-faced and try not to break out in laughter. I imagine all of you are smart enough to infer what I’m getting at, but in case not, I’ll just come out and say it; in these past four months, in terms of writing, I have done next to nothing. What I have done is get a notebook and write down the profiles of sixty-six of my characters (Yes. Sixty-six… and I still feel as if I need more characters to fulfil certain purposes, even though I already know I have far too many of them. To be fair, not all of them are as active…). I have very brief and extremely poorly drawn “maps” of the city and towns, and what’s in the main towns, as shown through this poorly drawn mess of the main town, Nox: Image

I am more than aware of the poor quality of this “map”. Who needs roads, right?

I’ve got who’s in what clan and what clans are allies with each other and what they call themselves. To put it bluntly, all I’ve been doing these past few months is putting off actually writing the damn thing. There’s nothing more I can really say to this except I’m probably going to start writing soon… Probably. Very probably. (What the hell does that even mean?) So…

This is just me saying that things are probably going to change around here. This is me saying that what I’m saying in this blog post is not going to be completely ignored and forgotten about because I can’t be bothered to implement them. This is me saying I want this blog to at least be somewhat decent. I mean… four months, guys. Four months. What the hell is that? And so…

I’ll be back soon with something of actual quality for you all. You know, because everything else about this blog screams high quality content, right? Exactly right.

This is me signing off.

I’ll be back soon. (You can count on that.)

Laurence out.