By Colleen Helme
From literary fiction, to mainstream, to genre, there are many types of books to read. As a reader, you know what types interest you. As you identify your personal favorite, you can then make a decision about the kind of book you wish to write. This is important because you are more likely to succeed and follow through if you are writing about something you love. Next, take the time to write down five goals for your book. Again, this will help you identify what is important to you.
Once you have identified the type of book you wish to write and determined your goals, you will automatically have a set of built-in guidelines that can help determine the length of your story. For example, a young adult novel is normally about one hundred and fifty to three hundred pages long, whereas a fantasy novel can contain anywhere from three hundred to eight hundred pages.
The next step comes in developing your story idea. Even if you already have a story in mind there are many things you can do to bring it to life and make it more meaningful. First, you need to identify where your story came from and what inspired you to write about it. Think about this from an emotional standpoint and write down what these emotions are.
From here there are several things you can do to change your simple idea into a novel. This step takes your idea to a deeper level. A good exercise in finding out what you care about is asking a ‘universal question’. Universal questions are those that have no right answer, such as; what is the worth of a human being? Take the time to fill a page with these questions and then choose five that appeal to you the most. From here, you can narrow it down to the one question that evokes a strong emotional response in you. This will guide you to write at a deeper level and will give your novel the meaning it needs to be a success.
Every character needs a motive that causes actions that change the course of the story. Make a list of motivators that are strong enough to carry a book. If you have trouble with this, think of some of your favorite books and define what motivated the characters. After you have done this, write down how the characters changed their lives through the events in the story. Some motivators are: vengeance, grief and loss, rebellion, betrayal, persecution, catastrophe, love and hate, ambition.
The single most important thing necessary for defining your characters is creating an emotional connection. If the reader doesn’t care about your characters, your story will never go anywhere but the reject pile. You need to identify what motivates your characters, why this motivates them, and how far they will go to make it right, or satisfy their resolve.
There are many character traits that are strengths, but can also be weaknesses. An example of this is ambition. It is great to want to succeed and set high goals, but it can also be a weakness if it becomes more important than honesty. This creates conflict, and conflict is what a story thrives on.
Defining motives and character traits will enhance your story and bring it to life. How your characters overcome their weaknesses and resolve their conflicts is what keeps the reader involved and the story interesting.
In summary, identify the type of book you want to write and develop a story idea that evokes an emotional response in you. Give your characters motivations that will connect with your readers and you are on your way to success.