Thursday, November 8, 2012
It's not enough to just have a good idea. If it were, everyone would be a writer. The hard part is turning that idea into a well-developed story that can be used for a short story or novel.
Not every incident deserves to be developed into a full-length novel. (Some ideas in your “idea file” will be good for a short story rather than a novel.) To have workable novel you must have a story that will sustain interest for around three hundred pages. Pick your idea with care because you will be living, breathing and thinking about it day and night for the next year, through rough draft, revision, editing. It must be an idea you have strong enthusiasm for and is worthy of your time.
If you get ideas from a news source, or from television, it is best not to use real names or places. Though some authors have followed exact cases, or thinly disguised cases in their fiction novels, it is much wiser to make enough changes to protect yourself from any legal hassles or unpleasantness that might occur should some friend or relative of the victim recognize themselves. Change the name of the city, change the crime slightly. For example, you might be inspired by a famous murder case. Make that case the basis for your novel, but don’t make it a carbon copy. For one thing, people have already read about true cases in the news. No one really wants a rehash of the Scott Peterson case, but you can base an entirely new fictional story around a vanished wife and give it a totally different setting and ending by making the husband not guilty, the wife not dead but hiding out hoping he’ll get accused. The possibilities are endless. For another, you are writing fiction, not nonfiction. Leave the truth to the true crime writers. Your fiction novel should have creativity, clever plot twists, and be a unique creation. Follow the “roots” of several different cases and mix and match them. It’s a good way to find motivation for crime stories.
When writing fiction based on true events from your own past, don’t attempt to rewrite history. If you want to stick to the truth, write a memoir. A memoir is assumed to be factual and is categorized as nonfiction. Many a fiction novel has also originated from a real experience. Some of these experiences may have been frightening, upsetting, life-changing or inspiring. All make a good basis for a novel.
You don’t have to have had the same exact experience as your character to make a fictional story from a true event. For example, have you ever been lost as a child? Chances are, you wandered off and mom or dad picked you up right away. You must have been found or you wouldn’t be reading this. But you know the panic, the fear, the feeling of being alone and afraid. Turn it into a story about someone being lost in a more serious situation. A child might be lost In the woods , maybe the parents were killed in car crash. A hungry cougar picks up the scent of a lone child. Now you have a story start worth developing. Take a small incident and embellish, embellish, embellish.
Go through your notebook and find the stories that most appeal to you personally. Usually, if an idea is one you feel strongly about you will feel your heart pound with excitement, feel a catch in your breath, or have the sensation of hardly being able to wait to get to the computer and start putting it all down in writing. If you don’t have that enthusiasm, chances are you do not have enough information or interest in that particular idea to make it worth developing.
Now that you have chosen an idea, you still do not have all the makings of a novel. What you have is a premise. A premise must be developed a piece at a time.
First, you must come up with a cast of characters and provide a background for each. You must do research so you know enough about the layout of the setting you have chosen. If police or investigation are involved in the story, you may need some knowledge about the workings of a particular department. Do whatever research you think you will need ahead of time. If you need detailed information you will have to get it from books, the Internet, or personal interviews.
So, right off, you have two tasks to do. Get your characters and plot outline in order, and gather the research material you will need. Now you are developing an idea into a story. Keep a well-stocked file and then when you are ready, pick the strongest story you have to develop into a full- fledged novel.