Forum: Arts / Fiction

I'm going to have a stab at this - any advice?
By Louisemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Jul 07, 2006 07:51 AM

This may be long.

I've always wanted to have a go at writing a book, and was always a bit annoyed at myself that I couldn't think of anything I wanted to write about. I got my inspiration in the weirdest place yesterday, and I've written a few pages of notes and planning. Which is weird for me, because throughout my whole school career I have never written a plan for any piece of writing. I digress.

I know there's no right or wrong way to plan a novel, and no right or wrong way to actually get down to doing it. I assume some of you have attempted it, and I was wondering how you tackled it so I can find which way works best for me.

I'm also worried that I'll never be happy with it - for a few years I haven't written anything creative, just factual essays and articles. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, am I destined to tinker with it for the rest of my life? :?

Finally, I'm not sure what to do about naming my characters. When writing, have you ever thought deeply about their names? I'm wary of making their names a reflection of their personality, because that rarely happenes in real life... and I'm not even sure if I want my murderer to have a name. When reading, do you find it hard to follow if one character is referred to as 'the man' or 'he' all the time? Everyone else will have a name, I just can't think of a good name for my intelligent and attractive murderer.

I MIGHT post bits of it as I go along....I might not. :D

Oh, and one final thing...I am an English Lit drop-out and found a copy of H Porter Abbott's Cambridge Introduction to Narrative that I'd forgotton I had. Has anyone used that? Found it useful? Load of rubbish?

Thank you!!

Louise

4 Replies to I'm going to have a stab at this - any advice?

re: I'm going to have a stab at this - any advice? (karma: 1)
By DanceForCraic
On Fri Jul 07, 2006 11:10 AM
Wow, Louise, props for starting this project of yours; I'm starting the novel writing process as well... trying to turn a short story I've written into something bigger. I'll try and give you some answers, but since I haven't actually written a complete novel, I wouldn't necessarily consider these suggestions, simply answers as they apply to me :D

So, you said you haven't done a lot of creative writing. I just want to ease your worries a bit on that point because I was the same way. I can write editorials, opinion essays, research papers, etc., no problem. I can spit them out on paper, revise them a bit, and be completely happy. I think those kinds of writing are easier for us perfectionists because they just require our opinion or the facts, and they aren't always intended for enjoyment. I took an "Advanced Composition" course in high school where students created their own "contract" outlining what they would produce in a semester for a grade. We were allowed to choose anything... and our teacher would usually approve our contracts and we'd be all set. But he often pushed students to try new things for their contracts if he felt they were limiting themselves to a certain writing style. He told me I had to turn in a short story fiction. Ack! Writing fiction was (and is, actually) very intimidating to me. What to write about? How do I make a character his own distinct person? It was the first time I'd suffered real and completely agonizing writer's block. I could write for an hour and not have any problems, and then I'd come back to write some more and have no clue where I wanted to go next!

I have to say though, that my finished product was absolutely the single most fulfilling piece of writing that I've ever done. And you can already tell the perfectionist in me is coming out since I'm changing my story into something longer... but I will always be proud of the original version.

Hmm... so back on topic now, to actually answer your questions.

How to start writing... I think you're right on with the note taking. I've taken a lot of inspiration from J.K. Rowling, who has taken... Oh goodness, I can't even put words how many notes this woman has taken. I'm sure you know or can imagine... it's a buttload of notes. You're writing fiction, so even if your setting is, for example, London, you're still creating a fictional place. Even if you base your characters off people you know (as I do), they're still fictional. So I would make notes on the setting, the buildings-- J.K. even made a quasi-map of Hogwarts so she'd remember which rooms are on which floors, etc. Maps, drawings, etc. might be helpful when you're developing the places that your story will take place. As for the characters, I'd make notes for each individual character, even minor ones. What do they look like? What's their personality? What are their habits, flaws, weaknesses, what sets them off? You're creating a person, not just a name. Your characters should be so real to you that you wouldn't be surprised to find them standing in your kitchen. You should now their personalities so well that you'd know which character there in your kitchen would smack you upside the head for drinking milk from the carton and which character would reach his hand out and tell you to save some for him :D

Which brings me to names... one of my biggest sources of writer's block was trying to find the right name for my main character. I hate to say it, cause I know it's so hard, but I think your murderer really needs a name. Off the top of my head I can't think of a single book where the antagonist didn't have a name. If your readers are identifying with the characters in your book it's because you've developed a certain atmostphere to go with each name/character. By the time your plost has developed, the mere mention of your murderer's name should instill something in your readers... be it fear, uncertainty, curiousity, mystery, impending doom... Take the Harry Potter series for example. The name Voldemort/Tom Riddle is intended to bring all those feelings to the reader and other characters, so much that only then do they resort to referring to him with pronoun references. But using pronouns ("he" or "the murderer") from the beginning? I don't think you're going to develop quite the same amount of fear, or whatever atmosphere you're looking to create.

That being said, you could give him some sort of pseudo-name... there's a movie coming out (or already out?) called "Scoop" which has a "Tarot-Card Killer". However the protagonist is working to uncover his identity, so I think you might consider revealing a true identity by the end or your story? Uh... more pseudo-names... there's this German movie called "M" about a man who murders children and right before he murders he starts whistling this one song. I know the guy had a name in the movie, but I can't remember it... I think of him as "The Whistler". So, if your murderer has a certain reputation or killing style he might be able to make a name off of it... but if you're going to resolve your murder mystery by the end of your novel I think you should resolve his mystery identity too.

Mmm... so I think that's all the questions I can answer. You've got a lot of support from me on this; it's going to be really challenging, but don't give up on it! Happy writing (and naming?) :)

~Chelsea~
re: I'm going to have a stab at this - any advice?
By Louisemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Jul 07, 2006 11:58 AM
Edited by weezy (29559) on 2006-07-07 11:58:59
Pseudo-name could easily work. Something to consider, thanks.

I went through all the pages of this and found a few similar posts, apparently one should 'practise' writing so I've started to. Just in case anyone was interested. The first one I think is a bit repetitive. I'm still finding my feet with dialogue.

And this is REALLY embarrassing but I can't remember which way round the punctuation goes since I haven't had to do it for so long. Do I put:
"Hello", he said OR
"Hello," he said.
I think it's the first but not sure. And what about question marks? Is it:
"Is anyone there?", he asked OR
"Is anyone there?" He asked.

Ack. I'm disappointed in myself on that matter :D

Louise
re: I'm going to have a stab at this - any advice?
By DanceForCraic
On Fri Jul 07, 2006 02:27 PM
It's

"Hello," he said.

and

"Is anyone there?" he asked.

Aaand, if I'm wrong then my English teacher scratched out a heck of a lot of punctuation to teach me that^. So he'd better be right!

~Chelsea~
re: I'm going to have a stab at this - any advice?
By dancergirl1212member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Aug 03, 2006 11:07 PM
Need help with names? That's easy!
babynames.com
That's what I use! I use it to think about what I want to reflect from the character. Like, if your story is about a French girl who does something that has to do with her heritage, or whose family is proud of their heritage or something. So, do you want her to have a French-origin name? Do you want the name to be simple, fancy, or rare? Do you want it to start with a certain letter? And if you want the character's name to mean something that would be significant to them or their family, that helps too. You can even do an advanced search, with lets you choose gender, origin, and get more info on a certain name. You can see what others voted on it, like it they had this name or wished they had it. Then you can decide what your readers might prefer. I personally go with the crazy names. :)
Meredith! :D
PS sorry this was so long, I ramble alot. I'm an info freak, gotta tell everyone all the facts! :D

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