I’ve been blogging about planning stories, from ideas to first draft. At the bottom of this post, there are links to the other topics. (If you’re reading this as I post, some of the links might not be live yet.)
Before I keep going, I want to remind you that this is just the way I write and if you plan books (or don’t) differently, that’s not wrong. There’s no single right way to write a book.
When I have everything else — especially plot and characters — and know where I’m heading, I try to identify the major emotional points of my story.
Sometimes, I write snippets of scenes (out of order, yes!) of particularly emotional bits, or bits with emotions I want to capture that inform the entire story. With INCARNATE, this included scenes like the talk in the tent, the graveyard, and the butterfly chat. All of those scenes ended up changing a lot throughout the drafts, but getting them down — figuring out what made them so important to the characters — gives me something to aim for.
I also try to understand what themes I’ll be trying to capture, and how those relate to the main characters’ emotions. (I actually didn’t do this for Sparkle Story and totally got called on it. Heh.)
With Incarnate, there was the butterfly theme: the fleetingness of life, Ana’s response to the way everyone sees her, and how she deals with the feelings all that causes. Or, another example would be the way it feels to be new. We all know what that’s like, maybe from moving, starting a new job . . . whatever. Some things, like that, it’s easy to call up personal memories. Other things require a little more digging, maybe through translating emotions from similar situations or researching people who’ve gone through what the characters might be going through. The trick later, of course, is putting all those on the page (which is a whole ‘nother blog post).
For me, though, the key is identifying what I’m going after and how it shades the rest of the story, the characters, and even the way the story is written.
. . . And I think that sums up all the planning I ever manage on emotion, because mostly I’m having feelings the whole time I’m planning and plotting and writing the first draft.
But I do have one more thing to talk about.
When the plans change.
In spite of all my planning, sometimes things change. Masquerades appear. Characters are completely different people when I meet them for the first time. Secondary characters step onto the page and demand starring roles. Characters I thought lived actually die while other characters manage to evade death in spite of my best efforts.
Plans change. That’s okay. Sometimes, even if you think you know where you’re going, you’ll find new paths to take, new characters to meet, and new themes to explore.
Don’t be afraid to explore.