I’m glad to be writing again on The Pen-Dragon. I have been very busy binging countless videos of lore and theory regarding A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, sending out query letters to agents for Project Stripes, and world-building for my next book, codenamed: Project Beacon. As much as I enjoy writing here with shorter, discussion-feeling posts about my methods and opinions, my main concern must be to the novels I am developing. Speaking of which, this post was inspired while in the process of building the world around Project Beacon. After having a conversation over the weekend about my writing methods with a friend, I explained that writing a beginning is the hardest for me. I told them I have to know where a story ends up (to some degree) before I can confidently embark on the journey. I have to end it before it begins.
During school I was never much into planning ahead or outlining papers, especially when it came to the creative assignments. I felt like I would figure out what needed to be said as I went. That mentality remains to this day for academic or non-fiction works (like this blog). I start with the idea I know I want to write about and write without restraint. For fiction, I have seen the merits of being a little more organized with the future of my career.
As I got older and experienced in drafting, I realized a writer needs to be able to identify the classic points of his story (intro, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution) by writing them out. Seeing them on paper helped me figure out which aspects of the story needed to be taken out and which ones needed further development. And if I can comprehensively lay out the actions of the story, so too might an agent or reader as well. ***You should know I did not mention WHEN is a good time to create this physical arc of the story. That is up to the writer. For me, Project Stripes wasn’t outlined until draft thirteen!
Project Beacon is a different case.
The novel takes place in an Earth parallel to ours, in a country I created occupying the northern chunk of Québec. I needed more structuring early on to make sure this fictional country operates believably within the bounds of our history and events already transpired. [This is where the history buff in me really got to have fun!] I need to know what parts of their history will repeat themselves, if any at all. Therefore, I need to know how the story ends up before I begin it.
Despite their differences of when I outlined them, both stories will behave the same under the weather of editing and re-writing. How I ended Project Stripes in my first draft four years ago is the same now twenty drafts later. Only the events have changed and their complexity. The outcome, however, remained through years of war with the Red Pen. Arthur, the MC, gets what he wanted; it’s just the how of the getting it that changed. I think, will be the case with Project Beacon and all other stories that follow. So it’s not so much the plot ending I needed to know about but the character conclusion.
The first and most important thing I need to know before touching pen to paper is which characters will get what they want in the end and which won’t. If I can solve this, then I have a base point from which to introduce the characters: the opposite (or near enough) to where I know they’ll end up. It’s a comfort to me, a promise that I’ll one day get to the end. Knowing their fates motivates me into hiding Easter Eggs from related material (future or past) while controlling the amount of foreshadowing I should include in the work. It also burdens me with the almighty task of deciding where to have the essential twist that compromises the turning point at the climax.
However, just because I think I know which characters will get what they want and which ones don’t, DOESN’T mean that theory will become fact. I understand things change; characters change; my views of what I want readers to learn from the story will change as I write. It may sound paradoxical, but what to do? Such is the nature of writers and artists in general. What I do know is I am glad to be talking again on The Pen-Dragon about the craft I am continually learning about every day I sit to brainstorm or write. I will endeavor to put out more posts now my imagination is on overdrive with the story embryo of Project Beacon.