On Saturday, October 1 at 2:00 p.m. I will be giving an author talk at the CRRL England Run Branch. It will be fun to share my experiences in writing my first mystery. As I have reworked my Keynote presentation, many stories have come to mind. It will be my goal that day to encourage those in attendance that they, too, can write their story.
To accomplish that goal I developed a handout. Below is some of what I learned along the way about developing plot lines.
A story idea can come from anywhere, and sometimes from the most unexpected sources.
Keep a clipping file. That file holds clippings from newspaper/periodical articles, handwritten notes of things you have seen or heard. We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t make this stuff up,” when we read or hear about something outrageous. I also keep a writing journal to track my progress and to jot down ideas as they come.
What did he/she just say? Everyday we come into contact with people talking about various issues. Be ready to jot down ideas that might come your way.
What subject do you feel passionate about? What do people want and how do they get it? What stands in their way?
Once a plot line (and possible subplots) is decided, character building begins. Don’t be surprised if during the process of developing the characters the plot lines change. Characters have been known to do that. A plot line has to have a beginning, middle and end.
Developing subplots. A subplot is a story within the main story. It is complete in it’s own right and serves to reinforce or divert attention from the main plot. Subplots are the story within the story and can offset the main plot or be something completely different. Either way the subplot has to be resolved by the end of the book. The subplot can feature the main characters or secondary characters. In An Unexpected Death I chose to have two subplots. One dealt with relationships, family and romantic. The romantic provides the sexual tension that readers’ like. The other subplot turned out to be the mental health issue. Subplots are woven into the story so that most readers don’t even notice. They are a way to keep the story moving, keeping readers turning pages. Subplots take the pressure off the main story, relieving tension and adding complexity. Both plot and subplot have to create tension with your characters.
The genesis of An Unexpected Death was something my sister said to me many years ago. It dealt with a little known, at that time, mental illness. That seed floated around in my head for about twenty years before it was put on paper. The environmental plot line came about by accident. It came as I developed one of the secondary characters. Relationships carry their own tension, and consequently that subplot had to be included.
So where do ideas come from?
Newspaper articles, Magazine articles, Television/Radio shows, Suggestions from family, friends, neighbors, your imagination, Everywhere!