I used to marvel, and still do, at the faultless word Tolkien created. It was unique, and entirely real. There was nothing that left you thinking, ‘Is that supposed to be able to happen?’ or ‘Wasn’t that area somewhere else?’ No, you believe him utterly, and for the duration of your reading, he guides your imagination with his words, and suddenly you are in Middle Earth and it is as real as reality.
This is what writers should strive for. Writing is a long process and we often leave off a thought that we hoped to carry on, or write about something and three months later have no memory of what we wanted to build. It is similar to thinking of a house design, starting to build, going off for two years and returning to pick up just where you finished – it is not going to work. But this is the tricky part – your head is so full of characters, plot and setting that you forget what your original plan is, you get so sucked into your story that creating new lands and places takes presidency over staying within the ideas we wish to cultivate.
From attempting to learn from previous experience, I have made a short list of ideas for writers to help them stay true to their book and ultimately present the world with a seamless story. A story with the ability to become lost in, and for a little while, transport the reader to another time and place. We must remember how we feel while reading other peoples’ books – the high level we demand and the consistency we look for. Let us not forget to use the same measure for ourselves.
- Make a map of your land – you don’t need to fill in everything straight away. Show where the story begins and where the main points are. When you can see it it is easier to plan and layout a storyline that will be consistent and more life-like.
- Make a list of your main characters and their characteristics, including strong points, weak points, likes, dislikes, personal appearance, clothing, etc.
- As you go along, record all characters, maybe in less detail than above, but make them unique – no one we meet in life is just a blank individual.
- If there are important points that need to be picked up later, remember to write them down, there is almost nothing worse than realizing when you read the finished manuscript that you have totally forgotten about a certain aspect.
- Makes notes of everything that holds your story together.
- If it helps you visualize, draw your characters and put them against the wall or on a board. Somewhere you can look at them, it helps a lot when you feel a little overwhelmed with lots of characters at one time. This helps you ‘see’ the character as real, not just in your mind.
- If there is some strife between characters, don’t forget about this. You do not what your characters suddenly acting out of character when you forgot that they are at odds with each other.
- If your story covers many ‘imaginary’ lands, while including the map, make a list of places and a short history. It is always interesting to read a little bit about a place’s history, maybe where it got its name, etc.
- Make your writing space your own little bubble of creativity. Put up pictures, quotes, sayings, paintings, anything that inspires you and let it be an area only for writing. Don’t bring anything else to this ‘sacred’ place. 🙂
- Keep a thesaurus and dictionary close at hand – you always need them.