Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Charlotte Firbank-King


(Bet that had you running to the dictionary.)

This is how we "concoctastory." Open a file called Story Outline.

First thing:

In the actual manuscript:

Under “Chapter 1,” I put in the era or year and location of the story in italics. It just grounds the reader, lets them know where they are. But that’s me and it isn’t imperative.

In the Story Outline file:

Put in the date you start the story, for your own interest. 

Give a brief outline of the story for your own benefit, but this will probably change dramatically. 

Next headings:

1) Names and details:

In the View tool, I tick the Navigation Pane, then go to the Paragraph tool under General, find Outline Level, and click on the down arrow—it will open up options. I always use Level 1 for chapter heading in the manuscript and various headings in the Story Outline for easy access. The first heading would be Brief Synopsis. Be sure to change it back to Body Text in the paragraph tool before going to the next line, or you’ll have a million headings.

Name of hero and heroine—hair and eye color, height, build, defining features, age marks, scars, deformities, habits, twitches, tastes, occupation, likes, dislikes, traits—good and bad—ambitions, goals, obsessions, status in society, domicile, marital status, siblings, parents, etc.

In fact, anything you may need to remember as the story unfolds. Many of these details will change as time goes on, but the physical traits will probably remain the same. 

If you name specific details about buildings, furniture, or other setting items, list them here.  If they are mentioned again, you don’t want a purple building or chair to be pink later in the story.

As you write, add each character’s name and physical appearance. One may start off with a cast of characters, but the story may need a new character. It’s all too easy to forget that Joe had cerulean blue eyes. One often errs and gives characters brown or green eyes later in the book.

Minor characters, like a barmaid or footman, don’t need a name if they only make one or two appearances. In fact, it’s better to keep names to a minimum. Only add a description if you gave them a specific thing like eye or hair color, a squint or limp favoring the left leg—you don’t want them favoring the right leg at another point.

The names of ships, streets, buildings and places must also go into this file as they crop up in the story.

Make a note of things like Elvis borrowed $50,000 from Danny the hobo. Or he gave Leonardo da Vinci a $1 tip for opening his chariot door.

Be careful to keep names varied—don’t have Joe in love, working with or related to Jasmine, or worse, Josephine.

2) List of possible names:

Make a list of cool names for male and female people, dogs, cats, horses or any animal names. I make a habit of putting the list in alphabetical order and use only one letter per memorable character—lesser characters aren't important, unless their relationship is too close to the character they interact with.

3) Publishing details:

The author bio, query, synopsis, letters for agents/publishers, plus back cover blurb and tagline. Or you can put them in a new file, then make a folder with the book title.

4) Background info:

Almost all stories need research. Put the books used or where you found it on the Internet or the person who gave you the info. You may need to go back and check something. I have a separate file with all research relating to that story, then put it in the folder mentioned above if I copy and paste from the Internet. 

You would be amazed at how many ideas come to you as you research.

Writing needs preparation like anything in life. There is only one problem: a story can take on a life of its own and change direction—just go with the flow, be sure to change things in the Story Outline if you alter something. 

Above all, let the creative juices flow and enjoy the ride.

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