Saturday, September 21, 2013

WRITING A NOVEL - The Setting is Set

Today was a good day…no, a GREAT day! I think I found it, or better put, it found me.

Friday afternoon I drove to Target for some coffee with Sue Marie and David. Sue Marie is not a coffee drinker (she gave up caffeine several years ago), but she likes an occasional decaf, skinny, latte. Since leaving California and moving to Dothan, probably the only city in America (probably the world) without at least one free-standing Starbucks, I too have cut way back on my coffee. But there is hope…Dothan is soon to have its very own Starbucks. I digress…

David and I were doing some serious people watching when the idea for my next story hit me. It was like a powerful force taking control of my right brain. All doubt was removed and in that instant I knew. I’m not sure if it was the 390 pound man with the 32-oz Bojangles’ cup and bag of fried chicken struggling to squeeze behind the wheel of his car, or the thin, malnourished woman seated in her car in the Target parking lot taking her last, deep draw on her cigarette with the little stuffed bear securely belted in the passenger seat beside her. Perhaps it was the conversation I had earlier that day with a hard-working waitress and her struggles to make a living. Or maybe it was the young woman in her early 20’s wearing different colored tennis shoes and a fuzzy tiger’s tail hanging from beneath her skirt waving in the breeze behind her as she walked hand-in-hand with her boyfriend. If I had been on the boardwalk at Venice Beach I’d have hardly given notice to the girl with the tail, but this is Dothan. I don’t believe it was any one person that released my creative mind, but rather a closer look at humanity in general. Stories are all around us if we take the time to look for them.

The themes are still a bit foggy and I’m not completely sure about the storyline, but what I do feel strongly about is that the story setting will be in Dothan, Alabama. Also, the story must be written in first person point of view. I know what you are thinking: “Didn’t you say in your last post that your next story was going to definitely be written in third person?” Well…yes, but remember I told you this blog was going to be an honest look at the journey of writing a novel. Change is the one thing that is certain.

Not only do I feel strongly about the setting and the POV, I even discovered a working title for the novel. Although the title is likely to change, at the present it will be The Local. When I first started writing Flight to Paradise, the title was A Love Once Lost, and the first title I had for Flight into Darkness was The Golden Gate. Margaret Mitchell first named her one-and-only novel Tomorrow is Another Day (from the last line in the story). It was later named Gone with the Wind. So story titles do change quite often. That is why I call it a working title.

My challenge now is to work on developing the main character and his/her (probably going to be a “his”) driving motivation and deepest desire. There must be a great “want” and a great “obstacle” in order to create the conflict necessary to make a good story. And then there are the all-important themes. So for the next few days/weeks I will be focusing on bringing the character to life. Some of the questions I will need to answer are: Where does the character live? Where is the character from? How old is the character? What is the character called (names are important)? What does the character look like? What kind of childhood did the character have? What does the character do for a living? How does the character deal with conflict and change? Who else is in the character’s life? What is the character’s goal or motivation in the story?

The last question is VERY important and will be the driving force behind every scene in the story. But first I need to meet the character and he and I need to get to know each other.

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