Do any of you authors have any writing methods that readers, or even other writers might think are "Quirky"? When I was writing the "Irrevocable Change" trilogy about an assassin Iwas traveling between Illinois and Texas a lot. Slowly I started to notice the names of towns I was passing. Writers always need character names, so in my stories you'll fine the character Church Rayne from two towns in Louisiana and Cooter Holland from two different towns in Missouri. When you read all three see if you can discover others along Interstates 55 and 10.
I like that; I go for long walks before writing and I've noted down random things I've seen for future use. Whenever I leave the house I always have a pen in my pocket. Most of the time I take a notepad too. I have, on occasion though had to scribble ideas for stories on the back of my hand!
Have any of you ever been so enthralled in the writing process that you couldn't sleep at night? I have and I have often found myself waking up in the middle of the night to write down things that would be awesome ideas for a novel. I have also woken up out of sleep after dreaming about the novel to scribble down ideas that had come to me in dreams. Even when I was younger and my cousin and I use to write just for fun making up stories about our "celebrity crushes" (I won't divulge who those crushes were) we would try to go to sleep only to wake up freaking out as we had ideas we simply couldn't wait to write on paper. Ahhh the memories!
I just published a short love story, The Agreement, (it's being given away on this site in the contest section) and tried something I haven't seen done before. The story is about two people facing difficulties in their marriage. In several situations where they part to each think privately about the conflict I have used mirror images of the thought process, tilting the internal dialog to their perspective and their point of view. They are both absorbed in the same issues being confronted so they approach them from the same starting point, but inject their perception of the problem and the solution. I hope that makes sense and if you read The Agreement I would appreciate your feed back as to the effectiveness of the method.
I kind of do the same thing Kitty did with the names of characters. I've always felt the names I come up with are horribly generic or horribly contrived. So I started looking up movies I like, and I'll go through their production crew list to mix up names. Surprisingly, the result is really good, and a whole lot better than what I come up with on my own. John Smith just doesn't flow
J. Ar. I faced the same name problem when I was writing the trilogy "Irrevocable Change" the evolution of an assassin. I needed Italian names for Mafia members and associates. My daughter gave me a book for my birthday titled "Mafia; The Government's Secret File on Organized Crime". It is full of "rap sheets" of mostly old criminals. It's about two inches thick and full of actual Italian names. Picking a surname was easy and then I stole a first name from another file. You never know where the material you need will come from. For the past several years I've provided a "Gift Wish List" for the kids and grandkids to buy me gifts for birthdays, Father's Day, Christmas etc. So now I get old road maps and Atlas', books on Special Forces, the Mafia,etc.
One technique I've used with name finding is depending on the characters I'm writing about and where they are from, I will look up baby names for certain countries and just randomly choose names. Basically I close my eyes, pick a letter of the alphabet and then look through the names that start with that letter until I find one that I think fits. I have actually had some weird names in the past but they have been unique and catchy!
Quote from J.Ar "So does that mean all you get are writing material/tools for special occasions? Lucky you. I still end up with Xmas sweaters or bed sheets. Books, people! Books!"
I've learned that I have to pick the book and tell them the title, author and where to get it. When I asked for old road Atlas's one of the givers forgot the "road" part and I got "Atlas of the Universe" and some other variation of Atlas. Luckily, I still get the occasional bottle of Bourbon too, so one helps me laugh about the other.
Hahaha! J. Ar I have to do the same thing. There aren't a lot of readers in my family so when I ask for a book I have to almose DRAW them a map to find it. Though I have to admit that "Atlas of the Universe" sounds interesting. I know most of my family thinks that I'm strange when I get a new sweater and I'm like... "oh... thanks it's nice" but when I open up a book for Christmas or a birthday I revert to a child-like state of euphoria.
I just finished reading a novel where, in one scene, the lyrics of a song were interspersed with the flow of the story. Several lines of lyric, then dialog or narrative, then additional lyrics, etc. And it worked well. I probably won't use it because I'm not a music buff, but it worked for that author.
The process of writing is a very personal thing; therefore I suppose different people have diverse methods they employ to make their words convey their thoughts. I don't know first hand how other writers structure the mechanics of that process; I only know what works for me. My first step is to follow an idea that just comes to me. Sometimes it occurs while watching TV or reading a book or even during a long and monotonous drive. It can be something as simple as a central plot; just a theme to set the tone of a future story. Recently a plot for a murder story developed in my mind while I sat relaxing, looking out the window at a stand of trees behind the house. Later, another thought followed that the original plot could be utilized as the central conflict in a love story. Then I just had to figure out how to merge the two ideas. That's how a short love story, "The Agreement", was conceived. I don't decide to write a certain genre story first and then strive to think of a plot and character to fit it. Maybe, if at some point in the future I focus on a single genre, my method will of necessity change but at this early point in my writing career this is how my thought process functions. My career prior to writing novels was as a planner and scheduler of maintenance work in heavy industry. It seems natural to me that those skills would enhance the method I employ in writing. I need to plan an initial path and schedule the time frames into an organized framework. Once a basic story concept is established primary character development follows. The characters need to have attributes that will define them throughout the course of the story and they must stay true to those strengths and weaknesses. Only if the timeframe stretches over several years, or through life altering events, do the character's personality traits alter. At this point I'm ready to develop an outline of the major events to be developed in the actual story. This is fairly involved and usually runs four to six pages in length. Sometimes dialog develops that will later be used with minor changes in the final text. The outline does not however become iron clad. It is a guide, a direction to embark on but subject to change. Finally, writing of the story begins. I copy the entire outline into the story file and work several lines above it as the text develops. When the story advances past a portion of the outline I strike through that portion and work on the next segment, until the story is far enough past those scenes that I am satisfied major changes to the outline shouldn't be necessary before they are deleted. If the need for a subplot or additional scenes or characters develops the original outline is modified to either add new detail or delete some original thought. The process remains evergreen to accept new paths or enhance some that are found to be too slow paced or lacking in detail. I'm sure there are other interesting methods of writing but this is what works for me.
R.E. Schobernd is the author of the "Irrevocable Change" trilogy, the evolution of an assassin; a conservative political commentary "My Perception of Our Incompetent Incumbents" and the short love story "The Agreement". He is currently working on a new crime novel.
When all other inspiration fails in the search for character names I still rely on the phone book. For you younger readers, that's a paper book delivered to your parents that list the old fogies who still have land lines.