Starting and Finishing by Allison Symes

 Image Credit:  Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

This follows on from my last post about aspects of writing. How easy do you find starting a story? Or is it the finishing which is trickier for you?


I often use random generators to trigger ideas for characters. For me story is about character. For me, character drives the plot.

Once I have a character, I outline them. I don’t worry about physical appearance. I’m more interested in their major traits and what can lead from those. 


For example, if  my character is brave, I can obviously tell a tale which shows them to be heroic. I can also write a story where, for once, their usual courage fails them. I could also write a story where their courage looks like recklessness to others. So just from that one trait, I have three ways in which I could take things. I like options!

This for me is the great place to start a story.


Working out an appropriate ending, I think, can be trickier, unless I know I’m writing a twist story. I write the ending first for those and work backwards to get to a logical starting point. Agatha Christie did it too - it never seemed to do her sales any harm!

But for other kinds of tale, I have worked out in advance different possibilities for my character and go with what I think is the strongest one. I often use a spider diagram for this. I go with the ending I feel  has the most impact on me, whether it is to make me laugh or cry.  If I react like that to my character, it is likely my readers will too.


I start a story, yes even my 100-word ones, with a rough outline. I see it as a road map. I don’t plan out every detail but I jot down enough to ensure (a) I can get started, (b) I know my character well enough to know their story is worth telling, and (c) another marker to ensure I get to a sensible ending, one that suits the character. 

The most successful piece of writing is the one you do finish as then you have something to work with, edit and, in time, submit somewhere. I have found a rough structure is wonderful for ensuring I l know I will finish a piece and will have something to edit and submit. And I find it reassuring to know where I am heading. 


Does that leave room for spontaneity?


I often find better ideas occur to me as I am writing that first draft. I jot them down. Once I’ve mulled them over and thought, yes, this will work for this character, in those new ideas go. I also don’t want to plan everything out as I want to give my characters manoeuvre room but I do need a general sense of the direction in which they are heading and that they will have a proper ending to their tale.


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