On the forum I belong to, we often share ideas about writing, etc. We talk about our process -- what works/doesn't work for us, etc. Anyway, in order to help out a fairly new writer, I wrote a post that gave the thought process behind my new YA -- trying to give her a brief glimpse at how I work when I begin a new book.
Anyway, being as I worked so hard on it, I figured I'd add it here. (g) Plus, it's fairly representative of how I work. All of this usually happens very quickly -- while in the process of writing, etc. But it shows how my mind starts to connect various chunks--even though I don't know the overall shape of the end story yet. Or, honestly, who the characters are. Hope you find it interesting.
So, without further ado:
The main things I try to remember:
1. Don’t stress over not knowing what happens next. Write what bubbles up and that will, in turn, reveal the next scene.
2. Don’t stress over not knowing every nuance of every character. You can’t truly know who they are until you throw them into a situation and see how they respond.
3. Have fun! Write what you love and don’t try to write like someone else. The great thing about writing is that YOUR individual voice is what will make your book special. Let it develop.
Against all better judgment and time constraints, I started a new YA paranormal this past weekend. Didn’t see it coming whatsoever. All I know is that I was watching a show about hauntings, and all of a sudden I thought it would be a great idea to write a book about ghosts. Random. Unexpected. And wholly unformed in my mind.
For whatever reason, YA felt right to me. And of course, a female MC because I’m still uncomfortable writing in a male POV. So, girl…ghost…high school… EH…nothing else. What’s the story?? *a bit of thinking*
I’m a child of horror movies. I grew up watching them LONG before I should have and spent many sleepless nights reading Stephen King novels. I like scary. So, it’ll be a scary ghost and not just a run of the mill haunting. Nothing where she has to help some poor hapless soul deal with unfinished business so it can move into the light. I want some heart-pounding, hands shaking, scary stuff.
K…girl…scary ghost…high school.
In this program I watched, they showed this girl clutching her young son to her chest as she stands completely frozen, petrified as this mist surrounds her. She’s standing in front of a mirror and can see this man in the reflection, sort of hovering around her, glaring down at her. He’s only in the reflection, but she’s terrified by the sight. It’s not just things going bump in the night, this ghost is terrorizing her.
Ohhhhh… next jump in logic--it follows her no matter how hard she tries to get away. So, she’s moving around a lot, each time hoping it’ll fail to find her… So, what does that do to her family? Gotta be stressful, right? In fact, it might actually break up a marriage if one parent is unable to cope. So, there I have it… she lives alone with her mother, who vows to stick by her daughter. However, she’s getting desperate, so much so that the daughter is worried sick and blaming herself for everything. After all, if the ghost is terrorizing HER, she’d probably think she’s done something to cause the whole thing.
So, guilty daughter, distraught mother, scary stalker ghost, many high schools – always the new girl. Always hoping ‘this time will be different.’
Scene idea bubbles up: They’ve moved again, hoping the “thing” is gone. The fear and anxiety of not knowing what will happen. And then bam…the thing reveals itself again, shattering their hope. I write it and discover that the ghost doesn’t reveal itself in front of the mother. Does she ever see things happen?? Hmmm, not sure on that one yet so I tuck it away to mull over. But in THIS scene, the mother doesn’t know it’s come back. The daughter is going to try and hide it – to alleviate the stress from her mother. But how much can one person bear alone?
I need another character to help her through this. If this has been going on a while, she’s probably confided in others before. So, what happened? Most likely they didn’t believe her… or if they did, were scared off. She’s become very independent and alone during this time, afraid to trust people. What’s the point, right? If she tells them, they’ll think she’s a freak. She’s not going to just blurt it out. This person will have to see something happen and seek HER out.
So who?? Being a romantic, I always have a love interest of some sort. So, a guy….
Scene idea: He confronts her and wants her to confide in him. She’s scared to. In fact, the presence “warns” her not to speak. The guy plays the hero and gets her to confess. But wait, the big strong guy rushing in to save the day is SOO boring. Maybe he’s scared sh*tless, but manages to reign in his fear long enough to stick by her… Oh, I like that. I write the scene. He confronts the ghost and gets it to leave her alone long enough to tell her story so they can “understand” it. The entire time, his hands are shaking, voice trembling, sweating profusely. It’s endearing. (g)
But wait…they haven’t even met yet! LOL. What in the world would that be like? Who is this guy anyway? Being as she’s the epitome of a fractured soul, he should be the antithesis of her. Normal life, good family, lots of friends, outgoing, etc. Not quite the man on campus, but definitely well-liked. What would he think of her? Who is she anyway?
We know she’s hiding this big secret. That’s got to be killer on your nerves…hard to eat or sleep…always on edge. She’s thin, she’s slightly pale…she doesn’t interact with the other students at the school. So why would he like her?? Don’t know yet – tuck that away to think about. But right now, they’ve got to meet.
Right about this time, I’m thinking pure 1st person POV isn’t going to work. For one thing, if I’m going to have anything truly terrifying happen to her, wouldn’t it be better to get the perspective of someone on the outside looking in? Oh yeek, that means I’ll have to jump into his head. Okay, I can do that, but it also means I have to write in third.
Scene idea: He sees her at school and is drawn to her, though he can’t figure out why. There’s something different about her, though, and he wants to meet her. I write part of this scene…not the actual meeting, but just him seeing her across the school quad and taking an interest.
Okay, so that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I have no idea WHO the ghost is. I have no idea how this story will resolve… but as I go forward, one little thing will trigger another idea and everything will begin to come into focus. Not going to stress out about anything at this point. I’ll learn more about the characters as I go… and they’ll tell me the story.
Right now, I have several “kernels” coming to a slow boil. I see a scene where he follows her home. What would her house be like? The activity can be quite destructive, and they’ve been going through this for a long time. You’d think their furniture would be pretty jacked up by now – and instead of replacing items just to have them broken again, they would get to the point where they’re buying second hand. So, rag tag furniture… lots of lights because she’s afraid to be in the dark… no artwork on the walls, no knick knacks. Spartan. Nothing to provide this thing ammunition.
And I need to have him witness something. What? No clue. It will bubble up eventually.
And onward I go…