If you’re a writer, what’s your favorite part of writing a story–and how do you make an element your favorite?
How about character?
I always like to focus when I’m starting a new book on determining who my protagonists are going to be. What are you going to do to them in your story, and how will they deal with it in a way that makes you, and your readers, care?
If you do it right, characters are a shoo-in for being your favorite part of your story.
So how do you decide on your characters? So much about who your protagonists are depends on the kind of story you’re writing.
If it’s a romance, you can imagine even as you start thinking about your story who you’d like your hero and heroine to be. What will make them attracted to one another? Their appearances? Sure. But there’s got to be more. Something about the personality of each of them will draw the other. But there also must be differences and flaws so they’ll not run into one another’s arms at the very beginning but fight their attraction till the end, and the happily-ever-after.
There are as many different kinds of characters as there are real people. It’s so easy for a writer to fall in love with their human creations… and that’s half the fun of writing about them!
So… yes, a writer’s favorite part of a story can be its characters.
But wait! There’s also plot.
Do you love figuring out what happens to your main characters, and why? How does that plot develop in a way that keeps you writing and will keep readers reading? Oh, yeah, if you have the most fun deciding what will happen in your story, then plot can be your favorite element.
Your plot depends a lot on what you’re writing–what genre or subgenre. Plus, there are different ways of plotting. Let’s say the story is romance, yes–but romantic suspense. Now you have the fun of figuring out even before you begin not only who your characters are and what their characteristics are that keep them apart, but also the external factors, like danger, that they additionally have to overcome. That danger can make them work together, fight together… make love together. So plotting a romantic suspense story can really be enjoyable.
Or make it a mystery. Yes, there can be a romantic interest there, but the focus on that kind of plot has to be on figuring out what the mystery is–a murder, or something else? And if someone is killed, who and why–and how will your protagonist figure that out? It has to be over the course of the story, and plotting it out can be lots of fun.
Yes, plot, too, can be a writer’s favorite part of a story.
Then there’s setting.
It’s important in the development of both the characters and the plot. In fact, location can be a character unto itself. And just think of how much fun you can have if you decide on someplace far from home… and just have to take the time and effort to go research it!
Okay, maybe it’s too far and too expensive. But there’s always the Internet to help. So, location as a favorite part of a story? Sure!
For example, a story set in Alaska, like my Harlequin Nocturne ALASKAN WOLF, may have similarities to others in the Alpha Force miniseries about a covert military unit of shapeshifters, but the atmosphere is quite different from the others such as the first story, ALPHA WOLF, set in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, or the newest one, UNDERCOVER WOLF, set in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park. In my Pet Rescue Mystery Series for Berkley Prime Crime, and the series from which it spun off–my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series–nearly all the stories are set in Los Angeles where I live. L.A. becomes a character of sorts, too, and helps the stories develop.
Okay, what else can be your favorite part of a story?
That’s up to you. But you can also have fun with minor characters and subplots. They each help to support the protagonists and keep the stories going. For example, in my Harlequin Nocturne miniseries, the protagonists of one story may become supporting characters in subsequent ones. That’s because, the main characters are always the hero and heroine in romances, but the covert Alpha Force military unit remains the background for all the stories. And in my Pet Rescue Mysteries, I usually have something else going on besides the murder mystery, often involving–what else?–rescuing pets.
What part of a story I’m writing is my favorite?
Usually it’s a combination of factors, that can often change. Mostly, I like to get to know my characters, get them talking to me about who they are and how they want to address whatever is going on in the story. And they do talk to me–usually when it’s late at night and I’m taking a bath or lying in bed. I always have pen and note cards so I can jot down what they tell me.
They’re all different. Lauren Vancouver, protagonist of my Pet Rescue Mysteries, is quite different in her outlook and activities from her predecessor Kendra Ballantyne, from my Pet-Sitter Mysteries. The various characters in my Alpha Force Nocturnes are always unique, and yet many–but not all–of them have the common trait of being shape shifters. And, yes, the werewolves talk to me, too.
So… do you know, starting out, what your favorite part of what you’re writing will be? Or does it come to you as you’re writing?
Is everything equally fun? You know, as I reread this, it’s pretty clear that everything is entwined (as if I didn’t know!). So maybe you have a favorite element and concentrate on it as you write, but each other element must fit with it for your story to work. Keep that in mind as you both plan and write.
Now, how about you as a reader: what’s your favorite part of reading a story?
Linda O. Johnston is the author of 31 published novels, with more to come. She currently writes the Pet Rescue Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, a spinoff series from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries, also for Berkley . The first Pet Rescue Mystery, BEAGLEMANIA, is part of the Penguin Group’s Read Humane Program promoting animal rescue and the Humane Society of the U.S. , and its spokesperson is Nora Roberts. The second Pet Rescue Mystery THE MORE THE TERRIER, was an October 2011 release, and the third, HOUNDS ABOUND, was an April 2012 release.
Linda additionally writes paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne–the Alpha Force miniseries about a covert military unit of shapeshifters, and her first Harlequin Romantic Suspense, UNDERCOVER SOLDIER, is a July 2012 release.