So I’m unveiling this thing in June, and it’s a self-published novel, but what do you need to know about my writing? I figured for other writers, and to let potential readers know I thought this through, I want to share my thoughts on crafting a series or story, using the order of most importance in characters, plot, relationships (Part of this comes from the creative writing student in me). I write Urban Fantasy- people with powers who live in the big city and are dealing about the aftermath of an experimental lab coming to an end, and the scariest thing of all: freedom. Keep in mind, that even though my work might have a touch of paranormal romance (which I kind of fell into), it’s squarely Urban Fantasy, though I believe that this 3 point formula could help in any type of fantasy. This system helps me outline and edit.
Starting with the character is a must—their flaws, goals, and fears are the first thing that propels a story forward. Without a strong character, I’m determined to think that you can’t get a strong plot. An interesting plot, maybe, but your characters need to show weakness and growth to be relatable. Your characters should grow like any person, and especially if you have a series where years pass. My single most favorite thing about paranormal characters is that their powers grow with them, really solidifying their changes and choices. For example, in my own character development, I was very happy when Travis, who is obnoxious and strong (an unconfident narcissistic below the surface, and you don’t have to look hard) had a fear of the dark. This fear will play up symbolism in the works to come. When the power goes out, it will be an omen to the plot. When other characters realize his fear, it will establish relationships with them. The character’s fear will propel both plot and character relationships.
The plot comes second. It must be twisty, intriguing, and unpredictable. Plots are best written with an outline, so there is a clear direction, even if there are twists involved. A well-crafted plot allows the writer to leave clues to the reader, which makes second reads well worth it. I have a twist that not one beta reader has foreseen yet, and I have clues in book one, and even on my street team sign up page…hehehe. Plots aren’t something that you just add to, there must be a clear transition. For example, in book two I have a murder case, kidnapping, and a trip to an alternate reality, and I made sure these flowed and blended, avoiding abrupt edges or stops. The plot must blend story lines, and be harmonious with the characters’ life events (young adult coming of age stuff). The plot needs to support the character, so it should move forward in time with the characters and their life events. For example, if a character goes to college, having them drop out and move back home takes the plot backwards in time (see my post on the problem with Dawn Summers). Another problem we might see is repeated plots throughout a series, as if a new writer took over without reading up on the plot. Someone is back from the dead, again. Someone is evil, again. Really, please avoid the redundancy. Plot must be plotted from the beginning to end, and it must be willing to grow with the characters, not repeat itself over and over again.
The third part in descending order of importance, is character relationships. A character or plot must not suffer do to family, romance or friendship. See Dawn Summers again. Buffy drops out of college and the plot suffers, all so she can have a relationship with her sister. Romance is a completely different genre than fiction, and the exception. Most of us read to be intellectually stimulated and escape to a vivid world, thus characters and plot come first. If a plot or character hinges on a single relationship, then the story is weak. Part two of character relationships is having clear bonds. Characters should always have established relationships with the other characters they interact with. You must know as a reader how so and so feels about so and so. Are they protective, loving, love to hate, or disagreeable? If they are in close contact, they will have a clear relationship through dialogue. Use the character traits, the most important thing in crafting a story, to set these relationships. For example, my main character has conflict in the beginnings of the relationships with her future best friends, because we can’t immediately make friends with every person we come across—that would be unrealistic. However, because of her extreme extraversion, she does trust people she shouldn’t too quickly and learns that maybe, kinda sorta, that was a huge mistake. Her risk-taking does propel the plot, but it is not the main focus.
So there it is, the Characters, plot, relationships trifecta of descending importance, which is how I outline and edit for Urban Fantasy. Is there something special that works well for you? Comment below!
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9 months to go until I can squarely invite you into my world!