The Story Writing Process
The Stuff of Story
When writing a fantasy fiction story one of the first things I do is decide on a basic story idea, defining what it will be about. For instance, Son of Cain came into being as a result of wanting to write a story about the magnitude of God’s grace, Word of Honor the faithfulness of God to His promises, Wanzalara’s Cottage the faithfulness of God in the face of abuse, and so on. I want my stories to be great fantasy while at the same time honoring God and truth—not “my truth,” but His truth.
Once I decide on the basic premise of a story I create the story realm that best fits the story concept forming in my mind. I create the realm in my mind and then map it out on paper. However, Son of Cain was an exception. I did not paper-map a realm for that story, although I did have a basic picture of the nature of the realm tucked away in my mind. I probably should include the maps in my books, but I have not done so to date. I have left it for people to imagine as they go.
Prior to all of the above and somewhat disconnected from that part of the process is the development of character names. I have developed lists of names that encompass the common to the unusual, from everyday names to names that are more tribal in nature or might be common to a particular realm. That is especially true of Word of Honor—though some have indicated that the names can be difficult to pronounce. My rule is: Pronounce them as you will. However, included in Word of Honor you will find a helpful list of characters with name pronunciations as well as a brief description of each character. I get names from lists of names for babies, from actual people’s names that I hear, from my reading, and just from internal brainstorming. When I write a story I go to my list and choose names that fit the story characters and the nature of the realm. And in the process I might make up new names.
Developing Story Characters
But I am getting ahead of myself. The list of names is something I am always adding to. But before I actually go to the list of names that has developed over time, I develop a basic story line and determine the main characters that will move the story along: protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, mentor, minion, anti-hero, etc., and the various people their presence demands. The nature of the story determines the necessary characters. Of course, some characters jump into the story as I write.
Developing a Basic Story Line
I write out a basic story line with a beginning, middle, and ending. These may change slightly or drastically as I get into the actual writing process. However, they are a necessary beginning point. Sometimes I write out a fairly detailed outline of a story and at other times a story flows from the basic outline without need for plotting out details.
When I write I let the story flow. I write without worrying about spelling or choosing that just right word, etc. All of that comes with the rewrite. Initially, I want to get the story out, get it on paper (well, on the computer screen). Furthermore, keeping the premise of my story in mind, I let it take its own turns and twists as I go. To some degree a story generally has mind of its own. Sometimes I do not know it I am moving the story forward or if the story is carrying me along—a bit of both, I suppose.
Once Written Rewrite
Once the story is written, I leave it be for a while. But eventually I come back to the story and do a careful rewrite paying attention to consistency, to spelling, to getting that just right word, to proper phrasing, to color, etc. And of course, when I have finished the rewrite I think I have done well. Such polish! NOT! The polish comes with the second, and sometimes even the third or fourth rewrite, though it is never as perfect as I would like. Even after publication I read a story and think, “Ho, I should have…” That is the nature of being an author, well at least for me as an author.
Once the story is “ready” I have it edited and proofed. Then I do the proof corrections…and end up doing more rewriting. That requires having it proofed yet again, followed by once again making proof corrections while resisting further rewriting. If it seems necessary, so be it. For instance, I did at least ten rewrites of The Helot. Then I submit the book for publication. Hmm. Can’t wait to get my proof copy!
That is the story writing process I follow when writing a fantasy fiction story. Did I miss anything? What are your thoughts? Are you a writer? Any insights to share with my readers? Are you a reader? Questions?
The Lord bless you!