Writing a novel – how do you start?
Stephen King once wrote: ”The scariest moment is always just before you start.” If that’s the view of the master of horror and author of over fifty books, beginning a novel must be scary indeed.
There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank page. Long before I write that first word, I try to come up with at least one compelling character. (Okay, this may involve lots of words, but in my ‘notes’ file, not the novel itself). Then I spend a number of weeks getting to know that character. I think about them as I go for long walks, envision them in my dreams. I try to place myself in their head, to see the world they live in through their eyes, to hear the sounds they hear, to breathe in their air.
Next comes the plot. I try to discover what that character really wants, then make it hard for them to get.
Over time, I’ve heard other authors talk about how they picture the start of a story. One claimed he sends his characters up a tree and throws rocks at them until they find a way to come down. I heard Michael Palmer, the writer of medical thrillers, say he imagines a cannibal’s cauldron, puts his characters into it, lights the fire and nails down a cover on top of them. Then he watches them figure a way out.
Sol Stein, one of the great editors of all time, in his book, Stein on Writing, talks about the crucible, which he describes as “the container that holds the characters together as things heat up.” According to Stein, “characters caught in a crucible won’t declare a truce and quit. They’re in it till the end.”
I write dystopian fiction and think about it a bit differently. I like to create characters with an intense aversion to the dark, place them in the darkest place I can find and watch them fight their way back to the light.
The urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.
Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned. There Comes a Prophet is his first novel in this new stage of life.
David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.
Who among us will cast aside a comfortable existence and risk death to follow a dream?
A world kept peaceful for a thousand years by the magic of the ruling vicars. But a threat lurks from a violent past. Wizards from the darkness have hidden their sorcery in a place called the keep and left a trail of clues that have never been solved.
Nathaniel has grown up longing for more but unwilling to challenge the vicars. Until his friend Thomas is taken for a teaching, the mysterious coming-of-age ritual. Thomas returns but with his dreams ripped away. When Orah is taken next, Nathaniel tries to rescue her and ends up in the prisons of Temple City. There he meets the first keeper of the ancient clues. But when he seeks the keep, what he finds is not magic at all.
If he reveals the truth, the words of the book of light might come to pass:
“If there comes among you a prophet saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”
Candace3 December, 2012 at 4:54 pm
This is actually fascinating stuff! I think spending a lot of time getting to know your characters is a really good idea and you’ll have better characters and a better story because of it.
Thanks so much for hosting a tour stop today!