Guest Post by Ane Mulligan
By Ane Mulligan
That’s it! I’m a self-confessed Planster.
I think we all start with a kernel of an idea, that “what if?” After I have mine, I play with it, brainstorm it, and let it stew in my mind. While it’s simmering, I create my characters and find photos for each. I’m a very visual writer.
Once I have the photos, I interview each POV character. My character interview is 4 pages, filled with questions designed to dig out secrets and fears. The secondary characters get photos and a shorter interview.
Backstory is important. We are all the products of our parents’ and grandparents’ worldviews. We either connect with it or reject it, but it’s important to know. So for each POV character, I write a stream of consciousness backstory. By the time those are done, I’ve lived with them for a good month or two.
For me, that time is well spent up front. I believe motivation is the mortar that holds a plot together. And it’s in the character interview and the backstory where the secrets are revealed. By the time I begin to write, I know the character so well I know how each will react in any situation.
Now, I have an idea of how the story will play out. I have some scene planned and put those down in Scrivener, using the corkboard feature to storyboard. I can move those around to put into a good order.
At this point, I write a one-page synopsis, which then morphs into a 3-page one. By that time, I know where this story is going. I have my Plan. Now it’s time for the SOTP part to come out and play.
This is where the fun happens. I always have at least one character who will do something so unplanned, yet so organic to the story and the character’s personality, I let her/him run with it. It may change the story a lot or a little, but because I know the character so well, it always works.
I don’t write fast. I’ve tried throwing the story down to get that first draft, but it doesn’t work well for me. I have a very loud and obstinate inner editor. She doesn’t shut up. So I’ve given into myself. I start each day by editing yesterday’s work and getting back into my story world.
By the time I send a chapter to my critique partners, I’ve probably edited it 3 times, maybe 4. After I apply the critiques, it’s pretty much ready. When the whole manuscript has been critiqued and I’ve applied those, it’s ready for my two beta readers. After correcting anything they fined, it’s off to my agent.
While my way works for me, it may not work for another writer. But one thing that does work for all writers is:
Know your character’s core motivation. It’s the driving force of the story.
While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, multi-published playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane’s debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, releases Sept 8th, 2014.