Writing Books/Welcome tips on plot and character development
Hello. I've been a technical writer for some years and am going to try writing a fictional book with a history/mystery feeling. It's about a professional genealogist who, with the help of a range of characters in his historical society, helps people find answers they do -- and don't -- want to know from their past. I would welcome any advice you can offer on plot development and characterization. From my tech writing background, I'm good at relating the facts of something but it leaves my creative writing feeling flat and colorless. Thanks. -- Curtis
Technical writing or journalism is quite different from creative writing. As you have found neither of these work when you must create the "facts". I can only tell you how I approach my novels. You can try this system and see if it works for you. There are probably as many approaches to writing a novel as there are novelists. We all have to find what works for us, individually. Taking a writing course, making outlines, proofing chapter by chapter...works for some. Each of us has to struggle and find our own way, but this works for me and some other writers found it tremendously helpful.
My approach to writing a novel is exactly the opposite from tech or journalism and my characters are alive and vibrant; my scenes are captivating and the story flows and flows. These things I have been told by many readers. I do not do an outline. I do not know my characters, perhaps only one to begin with. I do not know my plot or how the novel will end. I barely have an idea, a question, a setting and I sit down and write a sentence. Another and another. I do this without proofing, without editing, without a care in the world about how it looks or sounds. My characters show up when they are needed and they help me write the story. They tell me who they are. They force me to be true to them. I am often as shocked as my readers by what happens and how the plot unfolds. After I have completed one rough draft of the story, I begin the first of many rewrites to make the work presentable and easy to read. I may rearrange here and there, but seldom do I revise extensively what I have written.
So let me suggest that you begin with one sentence and continue, letting the words flow from your creative mind. Do not edit, correct or otherwise staunch the flow of creativity. I believe that you will find your characters come alive and you may even meet a few that you didn't plan on. They may do things that you had not devised for them to do. They may have minds of their own and that is where your "life" will come from. Try not to go back and read what you have written critically while you are creating except to get the continuity you need or to verify certain issues. Don't allow anyone else to read it until it is almost ready for publication.
It works for me and I am told it works for Stephen King.