So you’ve asked your “what if” question. Now what? How do you turn that into a book? What seems to work for me is to create some characters and let them tell the story.
Seriously. Let ’em have at it.
Harp Lessons was based on family stories. At first, I thought that Sarah was going to be a sort of modern mixture of Anne Shirley and Don Quixote. But I think my subconcious realized that I’m not talented enough of a writer (yet) to pull off a plot with such a minimal antagonist, and so Cal showed up and turned my story into a coming of age romance.
If you had asked me, when I started writing Harp Lessons, what Cal’s story was, I’d have said, “Cal? Cal who?” But this is what I find to be the greatest joy of writing. Surprise characters and unforeseen plot twists add to the charm of the craft and the best part is, you are the first to see it. As the author, you are the special guest of a super special previewing.
With The Stone of Kings, it took a lot more effort because of the historic and mythic nature of the plot. Research drove the plot. Literally. But with every new twist that showed itself, I was again mimicking an excited ape, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
But I must admit, it was a little frustrating not knowing how it would end until it was more than halfway finished. Even more so that I didn’t have a title until it was almost finished. But you know that old saying:
Good things come to those who wait.
I’m happy with the way the ending has turned out and I know I’ll be even happier with it after the polishing of edits is over. But I think I’m mostly happy that I don’t have to call it “Ardan Novel” anymore.
What about you? Are you a pantser like me? Or do you have to have everything plotted out first? If you do, does your story usually follow your plan?