So you’ve got a setting in mind, the first characters have presented themselves and the first scene is starting to write itself. Now you begin to wonder where things are going to go and quite how they’re get there!
And that’s a problem. Have you forgotten how to structure a story? The thing to do at this point is to look at the framework of your story. And it is a story, make no mistake. So what are you trying to tell?
I’ve just accurately described where I am with a brand new short story that occurred to me the other day. I have a huge world I can build in with many many corners I haven’t explored. I built it that way on purpose. It’s a fantasy world somewhat of a cross between Ancient Rome and Medieval Europe. The two stories I have written in it have the main magic users (witches, basically, but only a race called the Rawm have them) as oppressed persons, so I was looking for a story where they weren’t.
And I found one.
Using an existing world means a lot of the broad groundwork is already done. I know the name of key cities, like the Rawmish holy city. World-building is still going to happen, of course, that’s the point of this story: it may become a minor piece of history for other stories.
But I nearly forgot the basic story structure. I have a Key Incident: the winter was harsh and the number of pilgrims to the nearby holy city will be drastically down this year. It may change, but it’ll do for now. What I needed to remember was what journey my main character needs to take in this story. She’s a girl entering womanhood (which reminds me: I probably need her mother around), but unlike her peers, Telar is about to become a witch. The problem is that the only other witch in the village, Berasha, is old enough to be her great-grandmother and doesn’t quite understand witchcraft is unique to the individual. So Telar’s journey is to accept her own gifts. Whatever they turn out to be.
This synopsis came about after thinking not just in terms of the Turnarond and the Climax, but also in terms of how a character needs to be different by the end of the story. And I’ve already written 200 words.
As National Novel Writing Month approachs (it’s exactly one month away as I type this!), participants will be strongly tempted to plunge into directionless writing in their attempt to reach fifty thousand words in thirty days. If that works for you, great! But it doesn’t work for everyone and it is becoming increasingly clear that it doesn’t work for me. And if doesn’t work for you, don’t forget that!