Story-Building (Part 2)

This is the second post in an ongoing series about my experiences with story-building, specifically using Scrivener.  If you haven’t yet read the first post, you might wish to start here.


Let’s start with Pandora.  Some writers insist that they can only write in a quiet room.  Others talk about having ambience sounds, such as one might hear in a bookstore or a coffee shop.  If either of these ideas is your preference, you might wish to find a writing location outside your home or play music that creates such an atmosphere.

But if you would like to listen to something that will give you a little motivation, I find that instrumental music on Pandora goes a long way toward creating an atmosphere for my writing.  I avoid music with words because I am trying to choose my own words, and I’m deathly afraid  of accidentally inserting song lyrics into the middle of a story.  That would be quite a twist.

If you are looking for recommendations, I find that the Glitch Mob station is a great motivational tool.  Most of the music is driving, repetitive, and moody.  It works for me.

(If you have your own music you like to listen to, feel free to share in the comments below.)


Back to story-building.

After creating the skeleton of the story and writing the chapter objectives as described in part one of this story-building series, I started one scene in each chapter and wrote down, in general terms, what might happen in the story to fulfill the chapter objective.  Later on I will expand each thought and decide how many scenes I want in the chapter, but for now it’s enough to describe the one important event that must happen to fulfill the chapter objective.  You could call it the heart of the chapter.

(For example, in chapter one I want to create a scene that will show my protagonist in his current way of life before the momentous event in chapter four that changes everything.  My aim is to introduce him in a way that epitomizes his life so that I won’t have to bore my readers by explaining who is he is and what he’s about [a picture’s worth a thousand words].  That’s as close to a spoiler as I’ll get for now.)

The next important step, since it’s inevitable that this process will involve a number of writing sessions, has been to create a to-do list and update it every time I write.  This way, when I sit down I know right away where I can start.  It helps to turn the mystery of creating a story into a series of manageable steps.

Once I had a rough outline to guide me, I began searching for places that would need more characters.  My goal here isn’t just to throw new faces in whenever I can, but to find the places that require a broader cast.

For example, there is a place in the story where a group of characters band together with a common goal.  This is obviously a place that needs a broader cast than the main character alone.  Scrivener has a useful feature for developing story characters.




The character sketch, found in the Template Sheets tab on the left (I chose the Novel With Parts option when creating this Scrivener project), asks some basic questions necessary for most story characters.  I have fifteen characters so far, and even though I haven’t filled out all the information for them (some of that will come later as I start the writing process), I am beginning to get a sense of who’s who.  They will grow in the telling, just like the rest of the story.  For now it’s enough to know their names and their roles in the story.

(I did more work on the characters, but I think I’ll detail that work in a separate post.)




Once I had a list of scenes within my chapters, I began to brainstorm about the kind of settings in which I wanted those scenes to take place.  Scrivener has another useful feature here: A setting sketch, also found in the Template Sheets tab.  By inserting a setting into each scene, even with a brief description such as “pine forest” or “quiet hamlet,” I can quickly visualize the atmosphere of the scene that is taking place.

(There is a great deal more to say about creating compelling and complementary settings.  That subject probably deserves its own post as well.)

At this point in my story, I found I had the basics of what I needed to start writing.  It was not my intention to start writing so early, but with so much of the groundwork already laid out, I felt a strong urge to begin watching the scenes unfold on the screen as they already were doing in my mind.  I am still working on the structure of the story as I write more scenes.

What about you?  Do you like to do all the outlining first, or do you do some of it as you go?  Or do you prefer to just jump right in and see where the words take you?


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