Monday, 16 June 2014

Writing Dust & Ash: Starting The Process

The other night, I wondered 'aloud' on Twitter whether anyone would be interested in following the creation of a book, from first flailing ideas to an actual finished product, bearing in mind that I am about as far from a proper, professional author as you can get.

One person liked the idea, so guess what?  I'm doing it.

Not just because Danni was interested (though it is a big part of it—no one wants to work on something no one's interested in) but also because it's something I might learn from the experience of and—fingers crossed—help keep me focused.

The project I'm going to be working on is one that crashed into my head a couple of days ago out of nowhere (I suspect it got lost en route to someone actually competent's imagination) and, in my case, the 'working on' bit of the process usually comes after characters with names decide they're going to infest me.  Sometimes even when they don't have names.

And 'names' is exactly where this all started, so it's where I'll start.

The Initial Idea

One thing I have in common with a lot of other writers is a notebook I use to jot down names that have either come to me out the blue, or I've seen somewhere and liked, or that might not even be names at all but could be worked into one.  They either sit on the page and wait until they're needed, or they randomly attach themselves to characters: for instance, Kirill wasn't supposed to be called Kirill, but once the name was attached nothing else seemed to work until I stuck with it.  In this case, I'd jotted down two names a couple of months ago: Dust and Ash.

So far, so generic.  At the time, I looked at it and thought, "I bet they investigate supernatural crimes in modern fantasy or something," and promptly forgot all about it.

I was working when suddenly I realised, apropos of nothing, that Dust was a twin and his brother was called Echo.  Echo had been born second, was a little smaller, a little quieter, and followed his brother everywhere.

And then I realised that Echo didn't follow his brother everywhere; he'd led the way once.  Echo was dead.

Refining The Idea

It's not much, but it's a place to start.  Now I've got the kernel of an idea, I've got questions I can ask: why is Echo dead?  How does Dust feel?  How does Ash, Dust's best friend, take it?  What genre is it?

For me, this is the part where I start to work out the plot.  Life is significantly easier when the plot appears first because you can sit down and start to work out the kinks almost immediately, but in this case I've still got a lot of work to do before I can get to that point—like find the plot.

For me, this involves asking more and more questions and writing down everything in another notebook.  Being me, I have different pens and inks for different stories at this stage: it's handy if you use one notebook for every idea.  I don't do it all in one go—I can't, it doesn't all pour straight out of my head, although damn I wish it did—so I write what I can and go away and do something else, and if something else comes to me, whether it's a question, an answer or a random idea, I scribble it down.

Music Helps

No, really.  I'm not kidding.  Sometimes, something in a song can spark an idea I might not have otherwise had, or made me realise something much quicker than I would have without it.  I usually construct playlists for stories I'm working on, which is partly a procrastination exercise (my favourite hobby), and partly because while I might not actually hear it while I'm writing, as I tend to tune it out, it helps keep the outside world from encroaching—always handy when you share an office with a parrot—and feels like it helps keep me focused.

In this case, I'd heard a song on the radio in the supermarket earlier and I couldn't get it out my head, so I looked it up on YouTube.

While listening to the lyrics, I realised something important: Echo's body might be dead, but Echo himself is not.  This gives me the genre: fantasy of some flavour.  And if Echo's soul is somewhere else, then it means someone has done this to him, which gives me the shadow of a villain—and a lot more questions.

And for no apparent reason, I can see a tea shop / cafĂ©, which gives me something to think about for world building: what kind of fantasy world needs a tea shop?  Probably a fairly affluent one with good trade links and plenty of social time; now I can start to work out where Dush, Echo and Ash live.

This is about as far as I've got.  I still need to work out who the villain is and what he gained from doing what he did, what Dush and Ash are going to do about it, and an actual plot (always a good idea, right?), but it's a starting point.

Next time, I'll talk about plotting and, hopefully, I'll be able to start working on this in earnest.

1 comment:

  1. *flails at the mention/s* makes me feel warm and fuzzy :D
    I look forward to this series! <3


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