Getting to know your book
Getting to know your book is a bit like finding the jigsaw pieces and putting them together. But, unlike a jigsaw, the pieces don’t come ready-made or ready packed. To add to the confusion, you don’t even know what those ‘pieces’ look like.
My recent jigsaw puzzle is in creating characters and plots for a romance series; when I have never written – or even considered writing – a series. I didn’t even know the first book in The Gasquet Princes, From Now Until Forever, published by Astraea press, was going to turn into a series, until a few weeks after publication when Henri, the hero Liam’s brother, announced he wanted his story told! And so, also with Astraea Press, His Chosen Bride, out in time for today, Valentine’s Day.
Authors are often described as ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers’. Plotters first plot their stories in detail before they start writing, while others work from an ‘idea’. I fall into the latter category.
So how can a ‘pantser’ possibly ‘get to know their books’?
Even they have to have a few basics on the table before they start. What kind of book do they want to write? If it’s a romance they then have to decide which sub-genre they are aiming for. And by association what kind of reader they want to attract.
But that’s in itself is still not enough.
When a reader picks up a book they expect to be drawn into the story. They want to experience that personal connection with the main characters.
To ensure the reader will keep turning the pages the author must create well rounded, believable characters that are fully developed. People the reader can relate to, whether they like your characters, or hate them, if they can say ‘she/he reminds me of…’ then you have reader connection with your characters.
To do this the author must ask themselves three basic questions:
- What does my character want?
- What is obstructing their goal?
- How will the characters solve their problems?
That on its own will not hold your reader, so you have to add action and suspense.
You have to find a plot that has more twists and turns than the most dangerous mountain switchbacks. But, and there is a ‘but’… The conflicts you put in your characters’ way must be believable.
This does not necessarily mean gunfights, murder and mayhem or shouting matches between your hero and heroine. Especially not the shouting matches. Nothing will turn a reader off more than a book-full of constant bickering.
Your action and conflict can be internally related. By that I mean something in their past influences the moment you open the first page of the book. The action and conflict must draw the reader in so they forget the real world around them. All conflict requires balance to hold the reader.
Even a pantser has to keep these criteria in mind when they write. They have to know their book.
The characters in my stories seem to know this instinctively. For the most part they ‘tell’ their own story and use me as their ‘go-between’. On the occasions when they, and I, forget the rules we find ourselves in some serious backtracking that involves a lot of major re-writing.
An author can’t help but get too close to the action when writing a book.
To them their characters are real people, with real problems. They are the jigsaw pieces that complete the puzzle. The only difference is the author must know their puzzle / book inside out before putting each piece of the puzzle together in the correct order.
Then, and only then, when they have that knowledge, can they start writing! This may sound strange coming from a ‘pantser’, but even a ‘pantser’ must have enough information from whatever source, be that from the author’s characters or their detailed list of plots and scenes before they can possibly hope to begin laying all those jigsaw piece out on the ‘table’ and start putting them together.
Thank you so much, Sherry… I’m a pantser too and love it when the characters take over.
Multi-published author, Sherry Gloag is a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countryside of Norfolk, England. She considers the surrounding countryside as extension of her own garden, to which she escapes when she needs “thinking time” and solitude to work out the plots for her next novel. While out walking she enjoys talking to her characters, as long as no other walkers are close by.
Apart from writing, Sherry enjoys gardening, walking, reading and cheerfully admits her books tend to take over most of the shelf and floor space in her workroom-cum-office. She also finds crystal craft work therapeutic.
You can find out more about Sherry and her writing from her:
Website (and link to books): http://www.sherrygloag.com
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/sherry.gloag
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