Mini-Series Part 3: Developing Content

Placing characters into your setting is the first step of creating the content of your story. But what about the content of the story? You know, the stuff that makes up the meat of it? How do you form that around the characters and the setting you’ve chosen to write about?

Take out a scrap paper or open a new document, but also open the document you put your initial idea about what you wanted to write about on. If you’ve chosen to write about a teenage girl who ends up at an asylum because she hears voices, but she’s really seeing the ghosts of her ancestors, or if you’re writing about an alien planet where you characters have supernatural powers, then start there.

I’ll use the asylum idea as my example for the upcoming tips and advice I’m about to give.

  • Start with a scenario. What’s the main idea of the story? For my example, the girl who is essentially a medium tells her parents about the occurrences and she is thought to be crazy, so she is sent to an asylum.
  • Begin at the end! Sometimes starting at the beginning is more challenging than starting at the end. Think of how you want your character(s) to end up and how you want your plot to end. Will the girl escape the asylum? Will the bad guy get what’s coming to him? Or are you going to have a cliffhanger and make a series out of it?
  • Don’t write the climax too soon. The climax of the story is the “big bang” that happens usually toward the end of the middle half of the book. For my example, the climax could possibly be when the girl in the asylum discovers that the person she had been sharing a room with is actually dead, but she’s been controlling everything around her. What does the main character do? Does she run for help or does she find another means to the end? Or does the person she discovers to be dead help to plan her escape? The climax is typically the most interesting part, so don’t write it too soon in your story!
  • Write the beginning as if you, yourself, were the main character. Typically writing a story is from your perspective through your character, but instead place yourself in your character’s shoes. Take a moment to close your eyes an imagine yourself as the girl with the ability to see and talk to the dead. Imagine the fear she must have of telling her parents, imagine the scenario of telling them and being called a freak. Imagine what happens when she is rolling up to the entrance of the asylum in her parents’ car and how the nurse and doctors are both in white. Think about everything your character is going through and write it down. You might not use all of it, but you’ll get the idea as to how it should begin.
  • Don’t write “filler.” Filler is not fun, not engaging, nor interesting. Filler is just to get something more out of the story, but nothing is really going on. You can write for pages about how white the walls of the asylum are and how white the floor is and how white the hair on the old lady sitting in the corner is. But it’s not interesting, it’s not filler. Don’t get me wrong, you can mention these things, but don’t go on for pages and pages about it. Always have something going on that can further engage your story.

So we have the bones, the blood, and now we have the vital organs of a story. The content is what makes the story, well, a story! It can turn a one page paper into a novel and it can turn an idea into something great. Without the content of the story, you really have nothing. Take the time to think about how you want to write this story and how you want to connect your plot together while placing the characters into the plot.

You’re well on your way to having a completed story! If you haven’t already, just continue to write about what is going on in your story and try to complete it within a year’s time. Yes, it takes time, and when you do finish just remember to breathe and pat yourself on the back for completing such a fete.

But there’s just one thing I want and need to cover: audience. It’s an important aspect to writing a story and is probably the most important aspect of story writing next to actually writing the story itself. So tune in next time for the last part of my mini-series on development!

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2 responses to “Mini-Series Part 3: Developing Content

  1. What are your thoughts on content that doesn’t forward plot? I often write works that are not plot centric.

    • Like fluff? Fluff is usually boring and has nothing going on in it, which can stifle the story depending on where it’s placed.

      But if you’re writing work that isn’t plot centered and it works for you, then it works for you. But you also have to keep in mind that if your characters aren’t enjoying the non-plotting aspects of your work, you might have to tailor to their needs rather than yours. I know it may sound strange, but if you develop your characters enough and write based around them they will take on a life of their own.

      Take the time to see if your story could use forward moving plot, or if it can’t, maybe end it before the plot fades for that chapter (if it’s a longer story) or altogether (if it’s flash fiction).

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