The writing process: Conceiving a world

typewriter-1144164-639x426Being an author and being a writer is not an exclusive tag and one that I am learning to define as I go. A writer is someone who does just that, they write. An author, as least in my opinion, is someone who takes that skill of writing and puts it into a format that can be understood – whether it be this blog or a full-length novel. Now I know that my definition might not be the most well-received, but I do know that when one wants to be an author, they need to start with the basics – conceiving a plot.

The world of a story needs to not only tell a unique story, but one that draws a reader in. It needs to have structure, obstacles, environment and above all, compelling characters. The plot of a story has to take the reader on a journey that will inspire them to continue through to the end. A great plot will make the reader think they are right next to the characters and dealing with the challenges the character faces. But it must also maintain that draw, maintain the reader’s attention before the end. And this is done with a well-built world.

I know that it is overdone and not all that original, but I want to share my journey toward being an author for two reasons: 1) to show that there is always room for improvement to your work and 2) to illustrate that this business isn’t easy and that the true test of a person’s dream is to persevere through the tough times.

Ten years ago, while still in college, my fascination with fantasy books grew from just reading to actually creating a story within my head. The major I chose, Classical Archaeology, allowed me to begin the writing process – in the form of writing twenty page papers multiple times per semester. During this time, it allowed me to hone my writing ability, allowing me to craft a narrative as well as learning the system needed to be able to sit at the computer and churn out a bunch of words. Though it is a different format, it taught me the basics.

And those basics gave me my first plot. I always enjoyed fantasy and wondered what it would take for me to come up with my own story. I allowed the dreaming process to begin. I concocted the basic plot to my story, created the characters and setting, while outlining the early conflict. I had the components, now I needed to form those into cohesive thoughts.

The story was built upon the normal fantasy tropes the stories I read all the time followed. It was a story, it had the characters and it had the stereotypes seen in many of the stories of the time. It wasn’t all that original, but it was a learning time for me. I had never written for enjoyment (minus the time in High School where we had to write our own version of a Canterbury Tale = was a fun piece of writing there!).

The first draft of the story, called Through the Shadowed Heart, was a learning experience for me. I had this world I created and the characters that wandered throughout it. But they were wooden, stock characters fantasy readers have all seen before. They weren’t original, but it was my first foray into writing as a different voice, so I had to ease my way into it. I had to learn how to fit those characters into my world and the plot. It was interesting because I had always thought the plot would dictate the characters, but I don’t think that is true. These characters inhabit a world, and even if that world isn’t real, there are laws and rules that must be followed.

So with that in mind, the plot was a byproduct of that world I created. The plot wasn’t just the basic need to get a story moving, it was the story itself. In my mind, the plot isn’t just the conflict, it is the entire world within the manuscript: the setting, characters and conflicts. As a reader, it is simple to be drawn into a world another created, but to actually make one of your own is daunting, yet overwhelmingly exciting.

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