1. CosmicHallux
    Offline

    CosmicHallux Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2011
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    3

    Starting a Story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CosmicHallux, May 30, 2012.

    This question might annoy some people--

    But how should I start my novel? How do I know what to write about?

    I started a novel a while back and got into 40K words--and that's with numerous cuts and revisions...but then I stopped b/c I realized I wasn't devoted to the world it was in (paranormal vampire/werewolf). (I think next time I'll focus less on revisions and more on finishing the story first.)

    I had chosen the story loosely--I decided to write a paranormal romance b/c I had just finished a few books by Kelly Armstrong that I liked. Then I randomly chose some theme by what was in the news that morning. I did this b/c I just wanted the experience of writing. It ended up becoming about Mexican immigration and abuse/rape.

    But now I want to start again on something I can be more invested in and I don't know if I should choose a genre. I like to read all kinds of stories and Historical Fiction is probably the genre I've most enjoyed.

    I am settling on a story I had dreamed about, but it looks like the story will be sci-fi and about a dystopia. The problem I have with this is that I don't really read much sci-fi at all. I get put off by a lot of attention to geography or mechanics of spaceships--I like stories that are very human and am not turned on by strange creatures or inventions. I used to LOVE X-men as a kid and i find myself drawn to the heroic stuff w/ special powers etc. But I don't really see how I am qualified to write sci-fi since it's not usually my genre of choice.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for how to start? Or what guidelines to create about this novel? How do you decide on what idea to go with or what type of fiction to write? How do you start?

    I like writing--especially editing and revision and I have one character that keeps popping up every time I try to write anything.

    Thanks.
     
  2. louis1
    Offline

    louis1 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2012
    Messages:
    238
    Likes Received:
    7
    You seem confused about what you really want to write, i'd say the first step is finding out what are you going to write.
    Once you decide this, you can start working on a story ( one at a time ) writing multiples stories will get you confused.
    If you decide to write sci-fi, you'll need to read sci-fi and watch sci-fi ( you used to love x-men? rent the dvds and take notes! )
    most people are just like you not ''qualified to write sci-fi'' but research will change that.
    what guidelines to create about this novel?
    check out the three act structure, if that's what you mean by ''guidelines''
    How do you decide on what idea to go with or what type of fiction to write?
    That's a personal choice that only you can make. what inspires you? what to you want to tell people? It should be something that passionate you
    How do you start?
    two main different methods, first, you can outline the whole story, plot point by plot point then write the book.
    second, imagine a situation, start writing from there an see where it gets you
     
  3. KMilz
    Offline

    KMilz Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2012
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    I definitely hear you, there. I will have my favorite character built into the first novel I finish, whatever it may be =P

    Here's something to consider: Science Fiction is always based on fact, on what could possibly happen with the physical laws we experience everyday. You can invent things, but they have to be feasible within that universe; not magical. X-men hits on sci-fi because their powers are developed through genetic mutations, and we can't say for sure whether that would be possible or not. It's plausible, so it works.

    You don't need to invent all manners of new technology or come up with alien creatures. You just need to develop out your world by basing it off of facts in our world, and adjust as you need to go.

    Honestly, I think your writing will provide a fresh perspective on the genre, since you won't be plagued by the generalizations that other science fiction writers make. I'd go for it, bro.
     
  4. Caldenfor
    Offline

    Caldenfor Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    New England
    Leave out the details. You don't need to know quantum mechanics or anything to write sci-fi. You just need to provide enough information to set the scene, not explain how science works.

    Having some info here or there isn't terrible, but don't limit your creativity based on assumptions that may be inaccurate.

    I am working on a story, over several years now, about an alternate history where the earth history drastically changes primarily during WWII. The premise is actually something I have never heard of, so I will leave that out, but I will say that human advances in technology and biology are amazing in this tale as they are used as a means for humans to have a chance at a future they don't even know is at risk. It includes piloted armored units (big robots/mechs/mecha), mind control, and various other innovations that we are only barely scratching the surface of now in 2012+. End result: An amazing conglomeration of technology, biology, and humanity all in one shell. How far are they willing to go to protect what they hold close to heart? Romance is driving factor along with honor and dedication to family.
     
  5. Ashrynn
    Offline

    Ashrynn Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Messages:
    170
    Likes Received:
    7
    What Caldenfor just said reminds me of a secene from Thank You For Smoking..

    The main character is meeting with a movie producer about bringing cigarettes back into the film as something cool. One of them asks "Well, how do we explain how they can light cigarettes in space without them exploding?"

    "Oh we'll just have one of them say something like: 'It's a good thing they invented that device that lets us smoke in space'"

    Truth be told as lame as that might seem to say it, that's usually the best way of describing something that is not real. Mechs and many other machines are not real, nor do they seem physically plausible, but many stories have them and the only explanation is that some super genius created them doing "this thing"-If they even bother to explain it outside of it being a futuristic world right?
     
  6. live2write
    Offline

    live2write Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2012
    Messages:
    523
    Likes Received:
    53
    what is funny is I just posted a forum post about finishing what I started lol.

    I have had this problem in the past and to tell you the truth you can't think of a good starting point. You have to jump right into it and see where it leads you. Often times I will write the story in pieces that I am confident in before I link point A-B and B-C and C-d-e-f-G. 90% of the time I change they way the story flows or I remove more than I add.

    If order for you to start a story you just have to do it.
    Do not worry about the grammar or spelling until you stopped. Read it through and then have somebody critique it.
     
  7. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Since you have a character that keeps popping up, you need to sit down with him and listen to what he's telling you. Just start writing about him. See what he does. In a separate document, write down everything about that character -- where does he live? what model car does he drive? what's his favorite color? favorite food? How old is he? What is his education? Is he married? Why or why not? Does he have siblings? Does he still talk to his parents? What does he look like? Does he think he's good looking? Does he watch tv? What does he watch? Why does he watch that? Who are his friends? Does he have/want kids? Think of all kinds of things you'd want to know about someone. Then explain why these things are or see what they cause him to do. Just start writing -- have him get home from work -- what does he do? How does he feel? what does he want to do now that he's home? Since he keeps popping up in your writing, he'll tell you.
     
  8. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    I always say to start writing when (and at wherever point in the story) the characters start talking, until then I just daydream my way into the story so I became invested in (or obsessed with) the world and characters.
     
  9. Ali
    Offline

    Ali Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2012
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Windsor, UK
    I feel I might be in a similar situation to you. I like writing and amd not exactly sure about what I want to write about. I haven't definately decided but I think what I am going to do is write more shorter stuff so I don't end up involved in big project that goes no where. Hopefully I'll gain some experience and knowledge about what I really want to write about. Hope that helps,
    Alex
     
  10. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I know everyone doesn't do this, but I never know anything about what I'm going to write without a proper outline, a plan or something! If you feel knowing the end beforehand is boring you I guess it's not for you, but then I guess you will have to stick with the feeling of not knowing what to write... it's the one or the other, as I see it. Either you know, or you don't. :)
     
  11. CosmicHallux
    Offline

    CosmicHallux Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2011
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    3
    Thanks everyone,
    After reading this I've decided not to do Sci Fi because the only real Sci Fi I like is 1984 and some Ray Bradbury short stories. Though I do like Sci Fi TV sometimes, like the X-Files (LOVE the old ones) and Primeval (though I didn't always like the writing).

    If I was to blindly choose a book from a genre, I'd prob. choose Fantasy b/c Tolkien was just so darned good. I suppose I really like magical realism the best--but I don't know that many authors who do that....I'll just have to do some research.

    My fav. books/authors are a mix of Tom Robbins, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Tove Jansson, Isabelle Allende. And I did really like the Davinci Code, People of the Books, and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Also, this book by Stina Leicht was really good--a mix of historical fiction and fantasy that I thought was perfect. My fav. old authors/books are Nathaniel Hawthorn, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Marie de France, and the Odyssey.

    I don't know why I'm writing all that, but maybe it will give me a clue to what I should be writing.

    I agree with the suggestion to just start to finish without revising.

    I'll have to sit down and try to flesh out the character more--and go from there. Thanks for all the help. I really do think it's better that I think about this now and figure out what to write. I want to choose the type of fiction I'll be writing, then I'm not so worried about a plot or characters.

    This thread was really helpful, thanks again to everyone who commented or will comment.
     
  12. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think this is great for people who can do it. I, however, have NEVER been able to do this. My entire life, I've never known what I was going to write until I actually wrote it -- whether it was an essay, a story, a term paper, a report, an opinion column, a news story, a speech -- nothing. I never did an outline for anything. When I was a kid and the teacher required us to do an outline as part of the assignment, I used to write the paper and then I went back and made the outline AFTER I had finished and based the outline on the finished product. Whenever we had to submit an outline well before I had started to write, the outline never looked anything like the final writing.

    You know how you work, though. So if an outline would be helpful, you should do it. It probably is helpful to most people. But if you've never found them helpful, don't think it's necessary.
     
  13. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I never said everyone should, in fact those were my first words...
    The OP asked for advice on how to know what to write and I offered mine. He/she is totally free to take it or leave it, but since he/she obviously feel the old way isn't working it might be worth trying something new. I'm not trying to force my methods on someone, I was just offering a sincere advice. And I didn't read anywhere in the post that an outline was totally out of question, but I might have missed that one. If you're doing something that is clearly not working for you (and that is what I got out of the post) you should be willing to try new ways to solve the problem, don't you think? Then, when you know if it works for you or not you can make a decition on how useful it was.
     
  14. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    On the other hand I might have misread the question, but even in the case of not knowing What KIND of story to write a Little outline could be a Good tool to see if you have enough story-material for an entire novel before dedicating months or years to it only to abandon it at 40K... I never made outlines in my schoolwork either, but guess What - I Do now. We create our habits, they are not something we're Born with.
     
  15. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Please accept my apologies, Tesoro. I did not intend to imply that your advice was bad, and I had assumed I had kind of mitigated the possibility of that interpretation by adding that most people probably do find the outline helpful and that if the OP thought it would help him, he should do it. Obviously I did not adequately dispel that interpretation. You are absolutely right that any writer who is doing something that is not working should try new ways to solve their problem. I did not mean to imply otherwise. I only meant to convey that an outline doesn't work for everyone, because I have heard/seen/read that advice over and over again, sometimes from people who insist that the only way to write effectively is to prepare an outline. I guess because I've seen that so many times and it so clearly doesn't work for me, I wanted to point out that it isn't always a panacea, and if someone really doesn't know what they want to write, and if they are the type who only discovers the story by sitting at the keyboard, they should not be discouraged if they find they cannot even do an outline. I didn't want them to think, "gee, I can't even come up with a one page outline -- how will I ever write and entire story?"

    I'm glad outlining works for you, and it certainly is very worthy advice for anyone to consider. Again, to everyone: I did not mean to imply that one should never consider trying an outline. In fact, it's such good advice that I've seen it given countless times. I only meant to say that if it doesn't work, don't be discouraged.
     
  16. kamikazepilot42
    Offline

    kamikazepilot42 Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2012
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Hattiesburg, MS
    I'm not one for rules about how to tell a story (this is different than rules for writing). I wouldn't worry about "genre." Then again, maybe that's because I don't really read genre stories. You're writing fiction. Fiction is your genre. If you're not well-versed in science fiction but a certain story calls to you, write it. Research the details in the story so that you don't come off looking ill-informed, lazy or contradictory...but I don't think you need to know "how" to write a specific genre to be able to tell whatever story you want. It's your story. If it's good enough, it rises above genre.
     
  17. Owen8
    Offline

    Owen8 Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2012
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would say just develop your story and your characters, and just start writing. I agree about what you said about sci-fi. The sci-fi stories I like to read are the ones that use their sci-fi elements to put their characters in situations that draw out their humanity. Writers have written about people in every kind of situation imaginable in real life. So sci-fi strives to explore characters and examine humans in situations that we don't see. So maybe you could focus on that. If its going to be sci-fi, then you will need to make sure that those elements are entertaining, but sci-fi is a perfectly viable genre for a character-driven human story.
     
  18. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    It's ok, I know what you mean. As for myself I've tried both ways too. I think most writers start off by making up their stories as they go along and I never meant there was anything wrong with it. Everyone should find a way that works for them, only sometimes we have to try different things in order to find it. I also believe that especially in the early years of our writing it's good to experiment, both with things like working methods, genres, voices, povs, different ways of approaching a theme and so on. That is how we grow as writers and it's a good way to find out what we're good at, our own voice and what kind of stories we like to write.
     
  19. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Often I just start with a character and a setting. I have no idea what might happen to him or what he'll do about it. So I just start writing scenes about him, learning more about him and his setting and any background the story needs. Usually, the first two or maybe three of these "test scenes" won't make it into the final story, but at some point during the writing of them, something will click in my brain that gives this guy a motivation and the merest thread of a plot appears. I keep writing scenes, but now they're more directed, because I have an idea where I'm going. Eventually I arrive at a good beginning and the possibility of an ending, and I'm on my way.

    As I said, some of the scenes won't be in the final story, but they're necessary for me to find out what the final story actually is. They also help me establish a tone for the whole work. So the second draft usually involves ripping out the scenes that don't fit, and writing the new scenes necessary to make the story coherent.

    This is clearly not the most efficient way to work, but I find it really fun and enjoyable. It's a bit like leaping off a diving board without having a clue what dive you're attempting to do, hoping that some kind of inspiration hits you on the way down. Sure, you bellyflop sometimes, but you just grin and try it again.

    I don't always use this method, because often I know my story pretty well before I pick up the pen. But when I don't, I find this helps.
     
  20. Siena
    Offline

    Siena Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    50
    Outlining helps. Once you've finished your outline, you'll know if you like the story enough to actually write it. Or to outline another one.
     
  21. kamikazepilot42
    Offline

    kamikazepilot42 Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2012
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Hattiesburg, MS

    This is basically how I like to do it. Unless I really have a fully-formed idea created in my head, which often I do not, I simply start writing and go with it.

    I like the writing process to be one of discovery. I like to learn my characters and there story as I go, even if it means going back to rework earlier things to get in line with the discoveries I make.
     

Share This Page