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How to write a novel | People and Places


VIDEO 1 066

I think a photograph can inspire us to write about a place, but you need people in that place.  In this photo is  the ruins of a priory, would that inspire you to write? In the novel I wrote in 2009 I had the main character travel from England where he complained constantly about the weather to a Mediterranean island where he hoped to enjoy beer, babes and sand.  The contrast between the two places made it more interesting. We go through life going through a chain of events and we constantly make comparisons; so it can be useful to make comparisons between extremes in a story.

It’s bad enough when you buy a novel only to find it’s drawn out and boring; it’s even worse to write one. A novel needs to be fairly fast paced and although it is good to show and not tell, advice often given in creative writing groups; too many descriptions or too detailed descriptions can be boring. We all know that you have to start the engine on  a car before you drive it and so there is no need to describe starting the engine.

A novella is a short novel of less than 50,000 words and it can be a good idea to write a novella or even a short story as your first attempt. Novellas have to be more fast paced and are becoming more popular as eBooks for the Kindle and other eBook readers. I have been thinking of a plot for a novella. One of my friends describes the family of her protagonist to start her novels. I totally ignore any family and have my protagonist as a loner, so I can concentrate on who the story is about; there are no rules though. I also think about places, again there are no rules, the whole novel can be set in the same place. I prefer to move my character around and this makes for more work describing the different places, but makes it more interesting for the reader.

Conjurers do clever things with illusions and call it magic. Writers do clever things with words and sometimes it intrigues and sometimes it amuses. I like to amuse and make people laugh. I tend to give characters amusing and memorable names, for example. It also helps me to remember them. I have a terrible memory, I was going to see my doctor about it, but I keep forgetting. Go back to the previous sentence if you didn’t get that amusing use of words!

You also need a plot, even for a comedy. I have thought about a protagonist for my novella who can travel around a little. I considered a gypsy or a Dominican friar; both would serve the purpose. I want an unusual story. What is the point of a rehash of a story that has already been told. I considered the story of Barnabas, otherwise known as Barney who is a Dominican friar who has found himself wandering the leafy lanes of the English Countryside until one day, tired and hungry he sees a sign in a garden advertising for a gardener.

Barney, goes up the long drive of the rather large house and rings the door bell. He explains to the lady of the house, his predicament and that he would be happy to mow the lawn and tidy the garden in return for something to eat. He explains that he was a gardener at his previous priory and so quite experienced. The lady agrees and Barney find tools in the tool shed and sets to work. After an afternoon of weeding and making the lawn look cared for, he returns to the house to find the lady is out; but he is greeted by her husband. He is rather brusque with Barney and hands him a bank note with a cursory comment about it, ‘being for his trouble.’  Barney takes the note to the village shop and feeling even more hungry after the afternoon’s work, he spends it all on food. He buys enough food to last for a week, but something unexpected happens. The shop keeper gives him a lottery ticket, explaining it’s free because he spent over ten pounds!

I have given you a basic story. Could you turn this into a short story, novella or a 120,000 word novel? If I tell you there is a disused priory for sale near the village, would that make it easier. Let your imagination run riot and think amusing, which means, think of the unexpected. What would your readers be expecting? What can you write that they wouldn’t be expecting?

If you can write a short story of less than 1,200 words based on this idea, I would consider publishing it on A Zillion Ideas. You have to start somewhere! Incidentally, this blog is about 830 words.

There are more blogs on the Home Page. Please comment, do you want me to continue with tips on writing next week?

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7 responses

  1. Pingback: Pulling Readers into Your Story « TeenGirlsthatWrite

  2. Hi MIke, I like your concept of prompting your readers to write a short story based upon your idea. Your photos always set scenes in my mind, they are so powerful. Perhaps you could continue this concept each week with one of your photos.

    Have you seen startyournovel.com? John Bell gives opening paragraphs to novels to give people ideas to write.

    Who knows? You may be inspiring the next Shakespeare, Mike!

    19, April 2012 at 1:04 am

  3. Hi Carolyn,

    I had something like that in mind. I change the subject every day and so thinking a week ahead can be difficult! I have developed the idea of that story a little, but still no ending!

    I was hoping to be the next Shakespeare, not inspire one! I can at least try to visit Stratford this year.

    I saw a lady on TV last night whose novel was taken up by Random House after she published it as an eBook. It was about BDSM though, not sure if I want to inspire eroticism!

    Thanks as always for visiting. I have to think thrifty now so I can write today’s blog…

    19, April 2012 at 8:56 am

  4. Pingback: How to write a novel | Style « Mike10613's Blog

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