Challenges of bringing a story idea to life
by Shanta Everington, author of XY
Character v plot
For me, a story always begins with a strong character in crisis. I am a character-driven writer, which means that I like to spend a lot of time ‘getting to know’ my characters, and then let them dictate the story, rather than plotting in advance. I find that this approach can help with the creation of complex characters – the story ‘belongs’ to them. But the downside is that the plot can sometimes go AWOL…!
Character-led writers can find it challenging to keep control of plot and pace, and we need to take extra care not to let the story veer off track or sag. Plot-driven writers face their own challenges – starting with plot before character can sometimes lead to half-baked characters being shoehorned into the story.
Neither approach is inherently better than the other but it is important to be aware of the particular challenges in order to address them. If I feel I am losing control of the story, I try to take things back to a basic story arc: introducing a character and setting, showing the character’s dilemma, building up to breaking point, and then following a journey to finding resolution, with several false starts.
I ask myself, ‘Does this scene advance the plot in any way?’ If the answer is no, it may end up on the cutting room floor!
Another challenge is authenticity. We’ve all heard of the saying ‘write what you know’. But writing would be rather boring if authors were restricted to their own experience. After all, imagination is an author’s best friend. ‘Write what you come to know’ means spending time on research and discovery.
My latest novel is young adult dystopian novel, XY. The story centres on fifteen-year-old Jesse, who lives in a world where babies are born neither male nor female, and Compulsory Gender Assignment is carried out at birth. Jesse faces a major decision and is terrified that the secret she is hiding will be found out. Continue reading