This post is my own list to begin developing the next novel. If you haven’t read the first article Organic story-telling, you can catch it now by clicking the gold arrow to the left.
When I started asking questions about writing novels, these are the thoughts I came up with. Getting ideas down is the objective. Doesn’t matter if you think they’re crazy or dumb! You’ll likely toss lots of them out. But I’ll bet you’ll find some gems! It’s like thinking outloud.
As I said in the post, Organic Story-Telling, it’s just the way I like to work and it may not be right for you. Putting my imagination to work requires lots of encouragement. Looking for pictures as I go helps because that [as you will see] gives me lots more ideas.
Characters: Who’s going to be the protagonist?
Classical pianist?? Maybe an old woman looking back on her life after receiving a lifetime award. What she thinks about? Is she in good health or does she have a disease or disability? [why?] this may give her perspective of wisdom? Has she made a horrible mistake in her life…what…related to her illness or disability? An accident? Trusting someone she shouldn’t have? Did someone steal from her? Or maybe she did?
On the other hand, it could be from the POV of a young boy who has his own challenges.
Who else in her life? Her first teacher…other teachers…are her parents supportive or discouraging…[sets out an area of conflict] and at what stage in her life//career?
Siblings? Any sisters or brothers are good for conflict
areas…a sister who constantly undermines her in subtle ways? Aunts or uncles? A supportive aunt if mother is not. Is that brother just an annoyance or can he be a loyal and true blue friend who comes to the rescue at the last minute?
Girlfriends? [teenage girlfriends? Trouble there!] If you’ve raised a daughter you may know a lot about this!
Does she have trouble making friends? Probably she just has one or two…very close?
Male: Much later on in life. Are you my lead or my love? What does he do? A musician? Or a
writer/painter?? In the arts somewhere. Love interest…whether it goes badly. What are the issues? Problems? Is there jealousy? Does he pretend to be supportive but really undermines her. Is there another love interest? [male or female?] What role for the goofy brother?
ANTAGONIST Maybe it’s a parent or some other relative or teacher you shouldn’t have trusted but looked up to.
Broad choice…friend, lover, teacher/mentor family member…and why?At least as important as the protagonist….could be just one or several. Maybe just the way the whole system is set up. EG: the scholarships or the tests are usually only given to the men.
If old and looking back on career…I see a slight, elderly woman dressed rather old-fashionedly in black with bright flame-red hair. Definitely, from her speech and manner she is a bit of a character. As we go back in time, her appearance changes of course and we come to see her as a very beautiful woman…revealing that slowly. As a child, she is a bit of a trouble-maker [?] or do people take advantage of her?
Main question. What kind of problem does that person create for the protagonist?
Probably present day, Toronto….sources….Toromto Conservatory/ University of Toronto? Make the setting go over various decades in her career. As the city grows and develops…her career can easily take her to different schools and halls across Europe and the States. This is scope for changing mood …this works well for me as I know the city intimately having lived her all my life. They say that setting can become character so aim for that.
Right now, I’m thinking of FRIENDSHIP AND TRUST. With whom? What are the limits? Does she have a “strange’ friend…whose core she misunderstands? She thinks she does but does not and that is a serious downfall
- Friendship…respect…trust…similar world view?
- Is the work and dedication necessary to make it to the top worth it? What losses can occur.
- How does your personal choice of artistic expression affect your broader life choices.
- Betrayal. How many ways?
Once you’ve worked out what’s going to happen to your protagonist and developed some more minor characters, what will happen to them? Often, you can develop subplots to reflect upon the protagonist’s results …worse or better?
Remember that photo of the pianist playing for the elephant? Somehow it has stuck in my mind and I might use it.That might be something the antagonist might do to unsettle the protagonist?? Or something equally as “weird.” Once you go looking for pictures, you never know what inspiration you will find.
Or maybe it isn’t weird at all and my protagonist is just wrong. He or she doesn’t have to be right all the time to be a protagonist. What I think is NB: does he or she learn something important and grow from the experience?
As I’ve said before, you need to develop your own creative process. These are just suggestions that have worked for me. Good luck. Try some lists.
Below you will see the seven novels I have written to date. They are available almost anywhere online including Amazon. Click the coins below for purchases. The Osgoode Trilogy was inspired by my many years of law practice about Harry Jenkins, a Toronto lawyer. The Trilogy of Remembrance about a famous landscape artist, Alexander Wainwright, was inspired by my life long love of art.
PS: Have you heard of the British poet, Dame Edith Sitwell. She must have the most unconvential ritual to get the writing underway. Beforehand she would lie in a coffin for an hour awaiting inspiration.