The following was originally posted at Loose Ends, but I wanted to share here as well for all my writing followers.
Last year Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted 22 rules of storytelling. Now that I’m knee-deep into a first draft again (writing the sequel to my m/m/m menage MORE), I keep going back to some of those tips she mentioned when it comes to the basics of storytelling.
Two of my favorites are:
“Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.” — Emma Coats
“What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.” — Emma Coats
I think these go hand in hand when writing a first draft. I have to know the basics of what I’m trying to say and I have to be driven to share that story. I believe if the author lacks a passion for writing any particular story, the readers can tell.
When first starting a novel-length book, if I don’t have a firm grasp on the core concept of the story as well as the passion to tell that story, I stumble my way through the first draft, going back over the plot outline and who the characters are at their core until I land on the truth of what I’m trying to say.
Some questions I ask myself:
Who are these men? What do they believe about love? What goals do they have in life? What are their biggest dreams? What are their biggest fears? All of these can help drive the plot.
What are the basics of the plot in one sentence? One paragraph?
What is the ending of the story? What happens just before the ending? How are the characters emotionally impacted by the conclusion of the plot?
What in my own life (what experiences, dreams, hopes, imaginations) is influencing me to write this story?
What is it about my own beliefs and passions about living life that stirs me to write this story about these characters?
For me the journey of discovering all this is what makes storytelling such a powerful, enjoyable experience. It may stretch out the process of writing that initial draft, but I think my stories would not be the same (and neither would I) without it.
To all my readers, a huge thank-you for helping HOW TO SAVE A LIFE reach the Top 10 Bestseller’s list (currently #4) at All Romance eBooks and the Gay & Lesbian Romance Bestseller list at Amazon (top location spotted was #4). My first novel MORE has even reappeared as a bestseller (#2 in Gay & Lesbian Erotica at Amazon). THANK YOU, EVERYONE!
Also, thank you for all the recent emails and other messages about the book. Hearing from readers means a great deal to me, and your words of appreciation and encouragement seriously help me through the tougher writing days. I’m thrilled so many of you are enjoying Walter and Kevin’s story.
“It’s an adrenaline surge rushing through your body. You have this spark of an idea that keeps threatening to burst into flames and you have to get the words out on paper to match this emotion or picture in your head. After this comes the work of cleaning up the mess that you made.”
I blogged at the Loose Id author blog this week, sharing about the challenges and rewards of the writing process. Having finished writing HOW TO SAVE A LIFE and my holiday short story, I’m looking back at completed works and how strange it feels to have taken a spark of an idea and created a coherent (I hope) story.
“It does not matter whether your intent is to portray someone real or someone heroic. To make either type matter to your readers, you need only find in your real human being what is strong, and in your strong human being what is real . . . How do you find the strong or human qualities in your protagonist? What will be most effective to portray? The answer to those lies in you, the author. What is forgivably human to you? What stirs your respect? That is where to start.”
Recently I spent a weekend at a house on a lake with my local writing group. We alternated between writing and helping each other brainstorm story ideas. Here’s some of what was overheard during the weekend:
“The Fire Lube and Goo stories.”
“Life’s too short to spend it in retail.”
“We can’t help because of the prime directive.”
“I showed the neighbors my ta-tas.”
“Now that we got our juices flowing…”
“He doesn’t play our reindeer games” (about our only man who left the room when we started killing off characters with poisoned Viagra)
“I was a whiny bitch.” (from our only man)
“What’s wrong with his nipples?”
And perhaps my fave…
“My hero’s nickname is Meat.” Followed by… “His friend’s name should be Buns.” And then you know where I went… “It can be an m/m. Slap the Meat and Buns together.”
And of course that led us to…
“You gotta give him a T-shirt that says Eat the Meat“
I love this group of writers! There aren’t words to express how reaffirming and energizing it is to hang with other people who get the drive to spend hours and hours creating characters and stories from nothing but your imagination.
Want to be among the first to read the next installment of MORE THAN JUST A GOOD BOOK? You can sign up for my newsletter here. I announce the link there first, along with a giveaway for free books in every issue and other exclusive content.
Also, I’m guest blogging at Jessica Freely’s blog today, talking about the importance of reading for me as a writer and giving away a PRINT copy of MORE. Stop by and leave a comment to enter. The giveaway ends on Monday, July 9th at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be contacted via email.