Have you ever gotten such a great idea that you simply cannot wait to start writing it? At the time, it seems genius, as though no one else could possibly have come up with this idea, even if it’s highly likely that someone has. But no one can do it better than you, right?
Ah, this has been me over the past few days. While I was trying to nap the other day, my mind wandered, and kept wandering, eventually landing on this stellar idea about [redacted]. That’s right. I’m not sharing. Well, I can share a little bit. What I have in mind is a retelling of three rather famous fairy tales. And since fairy tales are public domain and well known, I plan to manipulate them to make their stories something different and unique and totally exhilarating.
Suffice to say that I think it’ll be pretty fun–both to write and (when I’m finished) read. So the past few days, since this epiphany occurred to me, I have been madly plotting, going so far as to abandon other writing projects (which were formerly so exciting) in order to write all this stuff down before I forget it. I want to develop it and summarize and have the story down before it slips through the cracks.
This isn’t how story ideas usually occur to me, so fully formed and with a stroke of “genius.” No, usually I come up with a vague idea and then I have to work to develop the idea and/or let it brew for awhile, like months or years. (Why couldn’t this idea have occurred to me in October–pre NaNoWriMo?!?!?)
Quite predictably, there already are doubts and issues to iron out surfacing as I begin to plot. There are a lot of characters to balance in this storyline, at least nine main characters right now, and it’s a rather confusing plot line because I have to keep the three stories straight but also allow them to strategically intersect. Unusually (for me) this is geared up to be a trilogy, whether self-pubbed or traditional, the trilogy is rather essential to the plot, as all the characters, although having their own storylines, become inextricably mingled with the others.
So it’s a matter of plotting out the details far before I write the stories. If I don’t, I know that I will be spending years hammering out the details on these projects and possibly screw myself over in a second storyline. I have to figure out how the characters interact, when they interact, what happens while one MC is doing one thing, another MC is doing something else, etc, down to MC number 9.
Since embarking on this journey so few days ago… I’ve already learned a few things.
1. I need a good timeline.
I plan on writing this as three concurrent books, that is books whose plots are occurring at the same time, which presents a difficulty outside of a normal trilogy. In order to keep key events straight during writing, I have to know when things are supposed to happen, especially relative to the other character’s plots. So this means I have to know all three stories I plan on writing, and how they line up with the other stories. For example, To keep track of everything, I plan on using the Aeon Timeline program.
2. I need to know the story.
And I need to know it well. While it may sound boring to read a trilogy with three plots running concurrently, rest assured that it shouldn’t be. These three stories will be told from three alternative points of view, and although the characters interact with each other–occasionally–all the characters are not main players in each of the plot lines. In actuality, while they have to interact at times, joining up at some times and going off at others, they are each enjoying their own story while another enjoys hers or his. But I do think that will be the fun of it–each story will be familiar enough to recognize, but unique enough to enjoy fully.
3. I have to know the endings.
It may seem like if the stories run concurrently, I’ll only have one ending, but I don’t plan on that being the case at all. Each MC will have a unique ending, thanks to subplots and other events that I throw in their ways.
4. I have to know my characters.
In order to make sure the characters will eventually do what I want them to do, I have to know that they are people who would act in the way I want them to. In other words, if I want my male MC to fall in love with my female MC, I have to match them well from the beginning to make it believable. No Ron and Hermione pairings here…at least, I hope not.
Questions I’m asking myself:
1. What is expected? How can I alter those expectations or turn them on their heads?
2. How can I foreshadow future events?
3. How can I make this unique and different from anything I’ve read (or written) before?
4. What time period am I going to set these characters in?
5. How can I make the characters my own?
6. How can I make the most conflict between these characters?
7. What kind of worlds/kingdoms will they live in? (I’m approaching these as fantasy, which require more world building than the average novel.)
8. How will these characters interact with each other? How will the characters interact with their world?
9. Am I using the setting to my advantage? Can I make it work for me and make the story dependent upon the setting?
10. What is the backstory of my characters and the history of their homes?
These are just a few of the questions I’ve been turning over in my head and scribbling answers to over the past few days. There are a million more that I have to address before I can really set to work on this story. But right now, I’m allowing my enthusiasm to take me away (because it feels less like work that way!), so that when I come back to it in the future, I’ll have a solid foundation built.
How do you start planning a story? Do you just sit down and write? Or do you take a step back and let it brew?