I’ve just dished out my novelette, ‘Branching Out’, to some beta readers and will be starting the 4th draft of my 2nd novel, ‘Broken Branches’ which means soon I will have nothing else to write about, so now’s a good time to think about starting a 3rd novel.
I was in this position in November 2009 when I had a vague idea of what to write for my 2nd novel…even though it turned out different, I still had a starting point.
This time I have nothing.
Well, not completely zilch. A theme I’m interested in is the distribution of wealth after the financial crash, Occupy, 99%, MP’s expenses, lobbying, etc, etc. This theme in itself doesn’t make for an interesting story but it’s a starting point for imaging a world and placing characters in it.
I think the hard part is thinking of a hook for a story. Picking a theme you’re interested in is easy enough but finding a story within that theme and telling it from an interesting angle with compelling characters driving the story down a road with surprising twists to a satisfactory destination is another ball game.
That’s when I thought about cheating : )
I’ve heard there’s only 7 plots, after some research there’s a few theories on the number of plots. Check out this page on ‘The “Basic” Plots in Literature‘ from only one, universal plot to 36.
So that’s plot sorted.
Next is your protagonist. Here we can turn to ‘The Hero: A study in Tradition, Myth and Dreams by Lord Raglan‘. He lists 22 incidents which usually decorate a hero’s story from birth to death. All hero’s from Achilles to Jesus to Harry Potter have a handful applied to their own stories.
I measured my own life against these and unless I plan an elaborate death, I’m not very heroic.
So where does this put me now? I end up starting to look at story theories which really take the fun out of it. I’ve got a couple of proper ‘writing’ books which are good at highlighting the basics and keeping you on the straight and narrow at the beginning but I think it’s better to read fiction rather than reading books on how to write fiction…unless you want to write a book on how to write fiction.
I like researching a theme. My last novel involved genes so I read around that, ‘The Selfish Gene‘ and others (You can read a blog post I wrote about it back then ‘You can lead a writer to research but you can’t make it produce a plot‘). Not only is this a great learning opportunity for the real world but it adds deeper, stronger foundations to your fantasy world. You start finding weird little details you can use, events that can shape character and plot, symmetries you’d never dream of.
This still doesn’t result in a solid story idea or a hook to get you typing out that first draft but it keeps you moving in that direction though, and at the moment, that’s good enough.
If you keep your eyes and ears open, something will turn up.