Ah, the beginning, the blank page, the quiet keyboard, the notebook tossed aside. Every writer knows about the beginning. The idea. The rush.
But what about the rest?
The trick is, whether you’re writing a screen script or a novel or something else, you have to begin, but there’s also the need to have planned to finish and that means you kind of have to know where you’re going.
I know, I know you have this great idea and you have to get going on it. Yes, you do. Have to get going on it I mean, but give yourself some time to sort things through first.
Fan the flames of that great idea – lay your groundwork. Know where you’re heading.
There are things to help you do this, things you need to know.
For example. The background of that great idea. That means research. Might be a little. Might be a lot. You’ll have to determine that. But it does apply to every story, not just thrillers, historical novels or SciFi. To bring your story to life in your head as well as on the blank page details are important. The research necessity for SciFi or historical setting is obvious. Not so obvious is the need to add detail and color to a family saga set on the streets of your home town. Detail enriches a story.
For example, in your home town, are the streets paved with asphalt or are there still some brick streets? Is it prone to flooding every time it rains? Is there a river or a creek nearby? Are there malls or neighborhood shops? More detail? Stop by the local cemetery and read some of the old and listing headstones. Check out what birds are common to your area. How old is the oldest house and what neighborhood is it in? Who’s the local builder, or do they come in from out of town? Think about the trees and the flowers – or lack thereof. Look around like you’ve never seen the place and pick out the details. Even if you don’t use it all, your knowing breathes live into your story.
Think about the great novels you’ve read, the movies that stick in your mind. It’s the small touches, the intimate knowledge of place that brings it all to live.
Your characters are also of paramount importance. Know them. Know what makes them tick, what quirks they have, how they’d react in awkward, dangerous, or humorous situations. There’s more to developing character than grabbing a baby book and looking up names (or creating one online with one of the fab new name generators). Make your characters so real to yourself and your audience that they take on a life of their own and stubbornly refuse to do something you want them to do when it gets crossways of who they are. And don’t do that just for your main characters – spread the love around to supporting characters as well.
Conflict – yep, there has to be a conflict or there isn’t a story. It’s the engine that drives it all. Focus in on your conflict, know what it is. Perhaps write it out and be specific. Know what yours is.
And embrace a theme. Understand for yourself what theme your story covers. Is it love conquers all? Maybe good versus evil? Now that’s not to say you’re locked in like cement overshoes, but if you don’t know where you’ve begun, you won’t be able to control where you’re going. Your theme might begin as one thing and then shift to another. That’s okay. More than one theme is okay to as the story evolves. But know that theme is to begin with or you’re going to find yourself way off track.
So begin at the beginning. Give yourself time to learn about the world you’re creating ~then gift the world with your genius.