Where Does Your Stories Start?
What do you write first?
The beginning? The middle? The end?
By the time I start a story, I’ve already been thinking about it for quite a while. I know some of the basic plot points, such as where it starts, perhaps a few scene ideas, plus the climax. I also know who the story is about, including their basic appearance, back story, and a bit of personality. Finally, I like to know where the story takes place before I start anything (for a fantasy story, of course, more attention goes into this aspect than, say, a contemporary story, because the setting is a strong element of the fantasy genre…but that’s a whole other discussion). In that preliminary stage, I tend to take a lot of “what if” kinds of notes. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if the character reacts this way? These notes are my way of getting to know the story and the character before I start writing, so that when I do dive in, I have at least somewhat of an idea of how things will progress.
As far as the writing is concerned, I tend to work fairly linearly. I start at the beginning of the story and work my way toward the end. On occasion, I’ll write a piece of a later scene that I’m working toward, but it’s never a complete scene—usually just detailed notes with a few sentences I didn’t want to forget. Working from beginning to end allows me to view the story the way the reader will view it. It also allows me to keep better track of information and how things unravel, because my mind is moving forward with the story, rather than jumping around and becoming jumbled up in the details.
But that’s just how my brain works—every writer is different, and has a different process. I try to keep my process as straightforward as possible, so my creativity has room to breathe.
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An interview with Nicole Persun
As you write your first draft you may fumble through it, but when you revise/rewrite your work:
1. Do you have a play-by-play method for revising/polishing your work in order to reach the goal line?
2. Or, do instincts kick in and tell you when you have made a touchdown? In other words, how do you know when it's just right?
Well, my first draft is always fairly rough. Think of it like the first day of practice. I know the game and how it works, but there’s still polishing to do. That’s where the editing comes in. It’s where I refine my form and practice the more difficult plays. As I get better, I get closer and closer to game day—the finish date.
When I start in on the editing, I usually have a handful of notes from the first draft. These can be as simple as “Make sure such-and-such a character’s eyes are the same color all throughout the book,” to as complicated as adding and cutting chapters and redefining character motivations. Normally, when I’m done with the first draft, I organize my notes chronologically. That way, I can read the book from the beginning and edit as I go. I suppose that’s my play-by-play method, simple as it is. I also look to the coach—my editor—for guidance as well. He always has suggestions to help me better my game.
The rest of it is instinct. I listen to my teammates—the characters—and figure out where the storyline feels unnatural. Then I make changes as I go. It’s a pretty organic process, but that’s what I love most about the game. You never know what’s going to happen when you get started, you just try your hardest to make sure that you’re prepared for even the most unexpected plays, so that when it comes time for game day, you’ve got it down.
When the Magic Happened
For me, the magic is the writing—the days when all of a sudden two hours have gone by and I have written 1,600 words without even realizing it. Once, my mom came into my room while I was writing and I was so into my work that for a moment I forgot where I was. How magical is that? I believe I was writing a scene in my new novel, Dead of Knight, which comes out later this summer. So much of my time writing that book was like that. I connected with those characters more than ever before, which I think made all the difference.
These instances happen when I’m working on the first draft of a novel, still figuring out my characters and the storyline. I think it’s because, at that point, I’m there to play. I’m not worried about typos or consistency or anything like that just yet. I’m focused on the journey. I write in the quiet, so I can fully delve into my story and my characters. And, since I get so into what I’m doing, I never realize “the magic” is happening until later when I look at the clock and my word count. “The magic” is the reason I write; it’s a pretty powerful experience.
Author, Nicole Person
Do your characters speak to you?
Well, I wouldn’t say I hear voices in the back of my head, but I do usually have a batch of characters on my mind. When I initially think of a character, it takes another week (at the very least, and depending on what I’m working on) for me to develop them and understand them enough to write down their story.
What is the funniest thing you have heard from one of your characters?
I’m always surprised by my characters. What they say, what they do, and how they change. Oftentimes I say that my characters are wittier than I am, and it’s the truth. To some degree, it’s not me making this stuff up, it’s them. Call it subconscious, call it weird, call it crazy, but when I write, I am handing the reins over to the characters—I’m just along for the ride.
What is the most memorable thing one has said?
In my new novel, my character Elise is bold and direct in her dialogue, and I like that. However, the most memorable moments with Elise are the places where she softens and becomes a little more vulnerable. There’s a scene where she does this with another character, Ryan, about halfway through the book. I love seeing my characters change and grow, and Elise’s development was evident in this scene.
Who is your favorite character?
I don’t like to pick favorites, but if I had to, I’d pick Orson from my upcoming novel (stay tuned!). He was given reign over some conquered territory from his father as a way to keep Orson busy in the shadow of his powerful older brother. After going through abuse and witnessing the suicide of his wife, Orson falls into a depression that slowly eats away at his sanity and eventually his mind seeks refuge in an alternate personality called Odell.
Exploring the mind of such a complicated character was fascinating. Yet thinking of him in a different light, not so much from the writer’s perspective but from my perspective as a person, I have a certain sympathy and curiosity for him.
Who is your least favorite character?
I don’t think I could ever venture to dislike a character and this is why: When I write about a character, I know their motivation—the reason they think what they think and do what they do. This means that I feel sympathy and understanding even in a character who makes bad decisions.
Characteristics that you admire in a character?
Their uniqueness. They are all individuals and they all struggle and make mistakes and do the best they can in light of the challenges they are presented with. Simply put, I admire them for them.
Pet peeves about a character?
I’d like to say that my characters bother me sometimes, but I can’t! In fact, when they say things that surprise me or do things that are unplanned (even if it causes the story to be more complicated) the writing experience is just that more spontaneous and fun. I don’t want my entire book to be planned before I write it, I’d rather explore and uncover things as I go.
Nicole J. Persun started her professional writing career at the age of sixteen with her young adult novel, A Kingdom’s Possession, which was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. Aside from novels, Nicole has had short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and essays published in a handful of literary journals. Her inspiration is drawn from the latest studies and findings in biology, astronomy, archaeology, psychology, and any other form of scientific, historical, or artistic discovery. She often speaks at libraries, writer’s groups, and writer’s conferences across the country. Currently getting a degree in creative writing, Nicole lives in Washington State. For more information, visit Nicole’s website at: www.nicolejpersun.com.
The Author in all of us
There is a story inside. One that needs out and to be read by others. It's there and now it's time for it to flow from author to the reader. Join us as we celebrate Indie authors.