Exploring a world through writing (or pre-writing)
First of all, thank you so much to Lynda for hosting me here today. I would love to give a copy of Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall to a lucky commenter, so make sure to say hi!
Right now I am working on my fourth book in my Shadow series. I’ve had the concept in my head for a while. I had the broad strokes of plot. I brainstormed to develop characters, and when I started saying things like, “She wouldn’t do something like that…” (as if the character were a real person), I knew that I was ready to write.
Pre-write, that is. Because no matter how much work I put into planning, the real story happens on the page, not in my head. I am reminded of this every single time I sit down to write a new story.
I wrote the first push of action. Didn’t work. Fleshed it out. Still not so much. Scrapped that beginning. Tried another. And another. And one more. No luck. Not that I didn’t get encouraging and positive comments from my critique partners, I did, but I could not sense the momentum I needed to open the book.
The problem wasn’t the writing itself. Nor was it the idea, story, or characters (I hope). I needed to find the right moment to begin the story and the voice that could carry it. During this process, I discovered so much about the world and the history of the characters that when I finally did write the scene that starts the book, it came with layers.
This process recalls an online lesson I found on Hatrack (Orson Scott Card’s writers site) a couple years ago. Written in 1998, the lesson was called Beginnings. You can find it here: http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1998-10-29.shtml. He provided an amazing, wonderful insight into how to begin by providing all his unused versions of Ender’s Shadow and the reasons that he discarded each and started again. Card in particular revealed how elements of the story are discovered through that process. I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have this example, and I plan to post the same kind of discussion in the future. I have found two other occasions where authors have put their raw beginnings online. Each time has been enormously helpful.
The most telling component for me in the first scene of my book is character, which is particularly critical in romance. How strange it is that character most often informs the world building. For example, Custo, the hero of Shadow Fall, is able to communicate telepathically with others of his kind (angels) and hear the thoughts of mortal humankind. I had no idea that he had that ability until I wrote him, though ironically he hates it. He does not pause at mentally telling the angelic host to piss off and get the hell out of his head. Suddenly the implications of his opinions spun out… if angels can read each other’s minds, they would not have much privacy. They would be extremely effective fighters. They’d have a problem caving to their vices. Not Custo though
From there the story can unfold itself. Problems of course creep up. The plot must move forward toward specific goals, but whether the character is driving it, or I am, is a mystery. And one I don’t want to solve. Once I’ve got that kind of mojo going, then I really know I’ve begun my story.
Custo Santovari accepted pain, blood, even death, to save his best friend. But a man with all his sins just isn't cut out to be an angel.
One moment he's fleeing Heaven; the next, he's waking up stark naked in Manhattan. In the middle of a war. Called there by a woman who's desperately afraid of the dark.
It gathers around Annabella as she performs, filled with fantastic images of another world, bringing both a golden hero and a nightmare lover.
He pursues her relentlessly, twisting her desires even as she gives herself to the man she loves. Because each of us has a wild side, and Annabella is about to unleash the beast.
You can contact Erin though her website, www.ErinKellison.com, where you can also sign up to receive her newsletter.