Every story of fiction was built from something real. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was a partial response to what he witnessed as a soldier in the Great War. Severus Snape from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series was based upon an old chemistry teacher. Two Years Before the Mast, a nautical tale by Richard Henry Dana Jr., was inspired by his time as a sailor. In some ways, we as writers have no choice but to draw from our own experiences or relationships — they’re all we really know. It’s not a realization to battle against, but rather one to make use of.
Too many young writers think that their story is finished when they finally type “the end.” Unfortunately, the truth is far less romantic. There’s no final clip of the typewriter, no satisfying shuffle of papers as you set the last page in place. Imagine yourself crafting a great cake — three tiers, strenuous attention to detail, carefully placed fondant — yet when you set the last bead of icing in place, there’s nothing left but to cut into it and eat it. And there’s nothing pretty about that.
With the advent of new technology, there is an undeniable shift in the techniques and themes of literature. This is a trend that has permeated history. With the replacement of typewriters by digital word processors, we were introduced to a new ease of revision; with the invention of reading tablets like the Nook or the Kindle, we saw an alternative to spacious personal libraries; and with the increasing accessibility of the internet we’ve experienced the obsoleting of physical dictionaries and thesauruses.
For each new story, a writer must make a slew of stylistic choices. What’s the literary perspectice? Should the language be in low or high diction? How will I dictate internal monologue? All too many writers assume these choice are arbitrary, yet a seasoned author will tell you that these decisions are hardly choices at all.
Learning how to write is probably the most obstructive roadblock of a blossoming writer’s journey. I’m not talking about the commas and clauses; I’m talking about the physicality of it–the very real process of sitting down in a chair and putting words onto paper. In my experience, every writer is different and so uses a different method. Discovering your method is something only you can do; it can’t be taught, but the knowledge of how other writers overcome this challenge can definitely help.
As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, all well-written stories are character driven — the progression of events is fueled almost entirely by the thoughts and actions of the characters therein. This isn’t to say that there aren’t times in which something might happen to your protagonist, just that the responsive actions of your protagonist should be the driving force behind how those events evolve. A simpler way to put this idea is by way of equation.
It is altogether too common for a story to remain uncompleted solely because it was never actually begun. Folks often say that they do not understand how to begin to write, and thinking back to the first days of my own writing career, I can absolutely sympathize. While there is no one correct method to begin a story, below I have outlined several ways you can plan your narrative and feel confident when you finally put pen to paper.