One of my favorite and most challenging parts of planning a novel is the setting.
So far I’ve created towns based/influenced by a real location. The current location I am basing my town off of is the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont. I was reading an article…think it was listing the beautiful places you’ve never heard of type of article…and instantly I knew I wanted to base my new novel in this area.
Along with choosing different names and body types I want my settings to be different, in a town that is not used a lot. I’m not sure what it is but lately I’ve been drawn to small town mysteries. Another reason I chose to base my town, Lander, in the Northeast Kingdom is because of the somewhat isolation of the area.
How do you chose your setting? Do you use real life influences or make up your own town?
Once I have a good meaty outline and have conducted some or most of my research I move on to defining my characters. The ones I focus on first are the: protagonist, antagonist, supporting characters and minor characters.
After figuring out the name of any character I focus on their physical descriptions. Along with wanting the names in my novel to be unique/not commonly used, I try to do that with using different physical features.
For the main character I need to create a back story. What has brought them to this moment? What key elements of their life do I need to share?
Simply put…why is this person the villain? Are they just evil? What has caused them to do harm to others? Do they hide under the radar? Treat others differently after the crime has been committed? So many possibilities! So many questions!
How do these people become friends of the main character? I like the term support. That is their main purpose in my novel. To support the MC and help them navigate through the story. I firmly believe they are just as important as the MC. Without them telling the story would just not be fun. Like in real life we need family and friends to make life worth living and enjoying.
These are the people that provide a moment of relief, comfort, or simply a distraction. I love using them in that way. Let’s say the MC is grieving…insert a minor character with a weird flaw that the MC finds funny and can clear their mind and enjoy the simple human interaction.
With any character I try to make them relevant to the story I am telling. I want the reader to care and believe in my characters. I want them to compare or hopefully relate their family/friends to the ones I have created.
What do you think about when creating your characters? What do you struggle with when creating them?
After outlining for my mystery novel I start my research. There are four areas where I mostly conduct my research: Names, Job, Setting and Similar Stories.
I always start with character names when researching. Part of me feels like if I know their names before I start creating them I will know more about them very quickly. I like to pick somewhat different, unique names. I also like to look at their meaning, hoping it will describe the character somehow.
Below are a couple of websites I use for names:
Then I move onto what my characters do for work. If I don’t know too much about their jobs then I will look up a brief description of their duties. If their job is important to the story then I will dig deeper so I have plenty of references to use.
Right now the main characters are hairstylists, a teacher and of course law enforcement.
Next I decide where the story will take place. Either in a real city or one I create. So far I’ve only created the cities for my stories. Mostly because I can create every aspect of the town instead of learning every minuscule detail of a real town.
The town where my novel takes place is in the fictional town of Lander, VT located in the Northeast Kingdom. Personally I’ve never been but the pictures are absolutely beautiful. I’m excited at using this location.
Since this is a mystery novel I’ve been reading more crime novels and researching similar cases. I like to see how other authors set up their characters and how the investigation unfolds. It helps me gauge if my story is flowing smoothly and makes sense.
Do you research? How does it help you? What websites do you use?
The current novel I am working on is a mystery series. I had actually intended it to be a romance novel but I learned very quickly I am just not capable, at this time anyway, to write in that genre.
Once I figured out I wanted it to be a mystery I needed to plan out what would happen. Ideas, characters flooded my mind. Quickly I decided on the main characters, a short background history, who the victim and murderer were and why the act was committed.
I found myself labeling each section as scenes. Scene 1 I introduce the main character, Scene 2 I introduce her work life, etc. Sometimes a scene is just a couple of sentences, other times it includes very detailed description of events and dialogue.
I firmly believe there is no right or wrong way to plan your outline. Some people know what they want to write and stick to it while I am sure others change their minds daily on what direction they want to go.
For me an outline lets me see what I’ve built, what I need to add, if there are any plot holes and how it’s all going to come together.
Do you outline? How detailed do you get? Do they help you or just add more stress?
Below are a couple of helpful links on creating outlines:
The Writing Cooperative
The Write Life
I’m 100 percent a planner. Mostly it starts off with a couple of key scenes or dialogue. For me even though I’ve written something doesn’t mean it is set in stone.
First I start with an outline, then conduct some research, start deciding on details on the characters and the setting and finally ending with a timeline – still trying to master this part though haha.
Are you a planner or panster?
If a planner, whats your process?
So I’ve realized that I don’t have enough material to finish my novel. *sigh*
The last couple of days have been filled with brainstorming, index cards and lots and lots of editing. *double sigh*
Think my next step is to research crimes similar to the ones that happen in my novel. Thinking it might help me see what steps I might be missing in an investigation or provide inspiration for the narrative.
This is definitely a set back in regards to the timeline I gave myself. I’m trying not to be negative or down about the situation but reminding myself that this is all new to me and that it is important to learn now and grow as a writer so in the future I will have a better grasp of how to complete a novel in a timely manner.
Most importantly I must not give up and keep going forward!
Hope your writing adventure is going well! Let me know of any setbacks you’ve had and how you overcame them! 🙂
Needed to take a couple days away from social media to regroup and focus on writing. Unfortunately I discovered I don’t have enough material for my novel. I wasn’t 100% percent sure I had enough ideas anyway so I’m not too surprised.
The only real bummer is that I put myself on a deadline to have this novel done by the end of September and this may set me back. My goal is I have to write two pages a day. Sometimes it is a breeze and other times it feels like I am learning to write all over again. Can y’all relate?
Trying to stay focused and determined to stay on track. Means I may not be able or have enough energy to give with networking. Feel like I am no good at it anyways. I’m a pretty private person in general so it’s been hard to think of what to share, what to talk about. Hopefully I can find a balance – I’m all about balance! ha – between everything.