Saturday, August 7, 2010

How to start a story

A friend today asked me for the basics of how I got started with my story. I'd like to share my answer so that I don't forget:

Regarding writing a book, I've trained for years as a technical writer, but happened upon a guideline for fiction writing that intrigued me.

My "bible" for fiction writing is actually a couple of really old books that you can still purchase used on
"The Basic Formulas of Fiction, revised edition" by Foster-Harris, copyright 1947 and 1960
and, "The Basic Patterns of Plot" also by Foster-Harris, copyright 1959

I did some research into the genre by reading a few of the more well-accepted adult books, picking out what I liked and finding flaws to avoid. You can read summaries in my blog.

My first draft through, I put place-holders or guesses for researched detail, which I picked up on my second draft. That way, I didn't "get stuck" anywhere. I had more fun doing the research, too, because there wasn't pressure to complete it in order to progress with the story. On the first draft, too, descriptions and conversations were pretty sketchy, for the most part. My goal was to "speed through" the writing to see where the story would lead. I always had the end in mind, but didn't know how I'd get from A to Z exactly.

One of the key things to remember in fiction writing, is to always "ghost in" an item before you actually need it, because nothing appears out of thin air. I can't use a hammer if the reader didn't know that I had a hammer, or hadn't heard about a tool-box several pages or chapters prior to actually needing to use it.

Another key point is that paragraphs aren't always broken at logical breaks, but where they best "lead" the reader to the next paragraph. Helps with flow.

Choose a voice (think, verb tense), and see if it works. My first draft, I changed voices about 10 chapters in and had to do a lot of re-writing on the second draft.

Remember that your protagonist has both strengths and key flaws that must be overcome. These could be physical or emotional in appearance.

As Foster-Harris teaches, don't over-plan your story. Just let it flow. I'll also add, let it sit sometimes for a day or two to ponder what comes next or what needs to be done differently.

1 comment:

  1. wow, many things I never even thought of ... love the hammer and tool box anology, makes sense... Dawnella


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