“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going,” Beverly Sills
This quote certainly held true with the writing and publishing of my first novel – Son of My Father – A Family Dynasty. The following is the journey I took along with the tools I had or acquired along the way.
My interest in writing developed from my earlier careers commencing in the human services field where I held various executive positions which afforded the opportunity to compose and create technical and operational handbooks for staff and volunteers.
I then ventured into the travel industry and owned several travel management companies which led to the co-founding of a marketing consortium and nationwide independent contractor network with over 5000 members. A part of my job was to write daily travel briefings, supplier updates and a bi-weekly e-newsletter for this membership.
There was a road map of sorts to follow when writing for these focused groups with reference guides, employee manuals, travel supplier information and travel advisory bulletins etc.
Writing fiction, however, required a major retooling of my skills. Seminars, author readings and signings, webinars, research, conferences and periodicals – all assisted in my learning process.
Here are some of the key pointers that helped me question and define my approach:
- Purpose (What is my aim or goal? Do I have determination and resolve?)
- Focus (What’s the central point? Do I have the concentration and vision?)
- Substance (What is the framework or essence on which I am to build?)
- Logic (Is there sound reasoning and thinking? Does this make sense?)
- Organization (What type of process will be necessary?)
- Information (Do I have the enough facts and data? Need more research?)
- Knowledge (How will my experience and wisdom assist in this pursuit?)
But a novel is meant to be enjoyed. It’s not a textbook.
The following elements I learned remain benchmarks to good storytelling. Thus the list of prominent skills continues:
- Creativity (Do I have the imagination and inspiration?)
- Imagery (Can I form mental images of my characters?)
- Humor (Can I add wit? Do I have a sense of humor to carry me through?)
- Excite (Do my characters and plot stir emotions or feelings?)
- Entertain (Do my characters and plot hold one’s attention?)
This composite of cerebral and the emotional qualities, along with a convincing and compelling style, are vital to connect and engage the reader. The essentials of character development, plot and pacing, entice the reader to want more and aim for the wow at the end.
But what comes first in the creative process – the character/ characters or the storyline?
For me it began with a character. Cautiously triumphant at the development of my protagonist, I thought the flood gates to the storyline would stream forth . . . . The more I pressed on, the more I took pause.
After months of contemplation, I experienced an epiphany. Although reluctant to abandon the present characterization of my female lead, it was clear I couldn’t move her or the storyline forward without major adjustment.
I was weary with the character and knew if I was bored with her my readers too would lose interest.
The re-casting began. She would not longer be a “party girl” but rather would have a pedigree education (Swiss Boarding middle school and Ivy League university degrees), and a defining career running a worldwide conglomerate with her father struggling with the tensions and conflicts of their contentious relationship.
She was named Christiana Lynn Barrington. As the new creation of Christiana unfolded, I finally had my storyline. The pieces, the characters, the overall conceptual plan was formulated.
I developed a reference guide for each main character outlining the basic tenets and data (outward description, personality traits, disposition, temperament, style, achievements/goals, interests/hobbies etc.)
With the written narrative, I found a picture that captured the essence of the character. Attaching the resume behind the picture, I had a visual aid that I affixed on a bulletin board in my office for easy reference.
Glancing at a picture of one of my characters – noting his sly grin, mischievous smile, penetrating eyes – helped me pinpoint dialogue and plot development.
This approach to character development and writing motivation won me acknowledgement and narrative last year in Writer’s Relief. This gave me a much needed confidence boost.
Now the story developed some bite and momentum. My characters were forming, conflicts both personal and business ebbed and flowed, tension and intrigue was building.
There truly were no shortcuts but I know the place I’m going is a place clearly worth going to.
My plan is to offer ideas and suggestions on writing cultivated and acquired from various sources, along with interesting tidbits about my passion for travel. In between, you will find bits of irony, exasperation and humor that get us through the day.
I’d welcome your comments and am reachable at: