Saturday, April 21, 2018

Establishing a Story

When I thought about this topic, I thought I didn't have any established method for organizing a story. Thinking about it I discovered maybe I do, I just approach it from a different angle each time. It's like a macramé where an assortment of threads are wrapped, knotted, or twisted together and in different directions to create a finished design.

For me, I usually have a vague, downtrodden female character arrive first. That sounds very gender divisive, but in defense of my genderism, I do tend to write for female readers, and also want to relay that I have recently had a male character emerge along with a story idea and a crew of associates. Since I've been writing, I've also had secondary characters from one story attract my attention, which has led to their own story and the creation of a series of related stories. I think good stories are made to promote the growth of thought and ideas for both reader and author, so maybe this is normal.

After the characters come, determining a rough story idea and where the story will take place. I do tend to follow the advice in Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale, Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, and Joseph Campell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces, so one of the next steps is to find characters who will become allies, antagonists, mentors, gatekeepers, or other archetypes. I often worry about my characters being too much alike since they are coming from the same brain, so I have used John M. Oldham, M.D. and Lois B. Morris' Personality Self-Portrait, Why You Think, Work, Love and Act the Way You Do, to help structure some of my characters.

Then I think about a world where these characters and their story takes place. From my previous stories, I have already created my writing worlds based on different readings, too. One is a galactic world and another a fantasy Renaissance type world for stories. I continue to use these imaginary worlds, but new locations pop up in these two very different types of worlds. World creation takes place in any Earth-bound story, too, because all locations and local cultures differ. If these do not have a ring of truth for the reader, they will be disenchanted with the world.

I've read about authors being either pantsers or plotters, but think I am a blend of the two, leaning toward being a plotter. I do map out a general outline from start to finish including all my ideas about the story and where it might go, including points of tension, the trials, and triumphs, but once I start writing things always go in very different directions during the process. Sometimes I need to take a break from a story and think about what has happened and where those events might lead. It can be a slow process.

Please visit these other participants and read their views on this topic:
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob
A.J. Maguire
Marci Baun
Beverley Bateman
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines
Judith Copek


  1. You're a "Plotster" Or so the meme I found to post with my blog entry says! I was delighted to discover my method has a name.

    Also, like you, I often find a secondary character in one story takes on such a compelling persona that I just KNOW I have to write his or her story too.

  2. I have a secondary character in my current WIP that definitely has a story waiting for her.

    Honestly, there's nothing wrong with you writing about women for women. If it's what speaks to you, it's what you write and you'll do a better job because of it. Besides, there's so much written for and about men, we need more for and about women.

  3. Interesting post. I think you have a structure you follow with picking the character first. And I have no problem with writing about women. Then you develop the story to fit your character which makes sense. And thanks for the reference books, which I sometimes forget to use. Beverley

  4. Joseph Campbell and Syd Field were the instructors who foundations for writing. and then Chris Vogler's workshop with the movie Star Wars as a teaching tool, stays with me still. Thank you for another excellent blog post.

  5. I liked the macramé anaology. So true. Impressed by all the resources you use for plot and character. Most of us have a methodology for writing. I usually start with place and then a character. Both are good, and then a plot reveals itself, sometimes slowly. As always a good, well thought-out post.