Although there are many excellent books on ‘How to Write a Novel’ I decided to share how I plan mine.
Once I have an idea, I don’t plot my novels in detail, chapter by chapter, but I do have a plot in mind.
It is said that every plot can be found in classical fairy tales, folklore and mythology. The hero or heroine goes on a journey, a pilgrimage or a quest and encounters obstacle after obstacle. So I consider which of seven basic plots suits my idea for my new novel.
Romeo and Juliet. Opposition to true love.
The Eternal Triangle. Making a choice.
The Spider and the Fly. A siren luring a male or vice versa.
The Fatal Flaw. A weakness in the hero which causes his or her downfall.
Faust. (Faust sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge.) A debt that must be paid. Something that catches up from the past.
Candide. An inexperienced, naïve hero or heroine, who makes the reader re-evaluate society.
Cinderella. Goodness triumphs.
Next, I consider the theme. Is it duty, greed, jealousy, honour, love, revenge or something else?
With the plot and theme in mind I consider my characters. What motivates them and what are the stakes? What do they have to lose or gain?
Before I begin a novel I must name my main characters – I can spend hours chopping and changing before I decide. I also need to get to know them really well. So I complete an analysis which details their physical appearance, their clothes, accessories (jewellery, fragrance & luggage), health, personality, religion and education.
Having sorted out the above, I fill in the details about their background, address, family home, how long they lived there, do they rent or own their home, the décor, the garden, and the importance of their home.
Finally I create their family, their nationality, class, and income and their family tree which lists births, deaths, names and ages. Only the tip of the proverbial iceberg emerges in the novel but knowing who my characters’ antecedents were adds a sense of reality and usually has a bearing on their lives.
It’s fun getting to know my characters, where they went to school, how they see themselves, their relationships, friends, hobbies, employment, the qualities my hero or heroine seeks in a wife or husband and anything else I think of that will breathe life into them and engage my reader’s interest.
Finally, I switch on the computer and begin to write in the first or third person – usually third person. I introduce my novel to my reader by answering the questions who, what, when where and how in the first few paragraphs. Then, with a little bit of luck and a strict routine I write the first draft.
Tangled Love set in England in Queen Anne’s reign. 27.01.2012
Sunday’s Child set in the Regency era. 06.2012