Between grabbing a pen to start your story and accepting another to sign your publishing contract, there’s a deep, dark pit of work that requires a writer to be both the digger who creates it and the landscaper who must fill it in and smooth it out, making it appear — to the reader — as if it was never there in the first place.
It’s called research, and yes, it frustrates everyone.
Between finding a good genre balance with the right setting and the inevitable headache over Point of View, there are dozens of topics that a writer must research and educate himself on long before he can even get to the layers of world building for his actual story. First-time writers have especial difficulty with this part of the (pre)writing process, but experienced authors will tell you that it doesn’t get easier. That’s why Winterwolf Press has decided to tackle some of the more common questions that are sure to crop up for authors in this early writing stage, starting with what Dorrance Publishing calls a “crucial piece of the writing puzzle.”
Picking a Driver
A book’s driver is just like it sounds: it’s the force that will drive your story forward. However, before an author can hope to buckle in for an easy ride, they must decide who that driver will be (and, in turn, what sort of story they will write). Luckily, there are only two to choose from:
- Character: The story is the characters themselves (how they change, what they learn, wisdom gained or not). Think of every quest story you’ve ever read, such as The Hobbit or Harry Potter.
- Plot: The type of story that Hollywood calls ‘high concept’ and often involves stories that are larger than life, like alien invasions of Earth, a global outbreak of a virulent disease, or some other disaster that will affect the human race on a large scale.
Each driver has their own set of unique perks that could expand (or limit) how a story is told. As Writer’s Edit suggests, “Knowing how to approach your plot will help you work out many things in the rest of your work, from what to research, to chapter length and even the impact of your ending.”
But what if you’ve already started writing?
It might sound silly to think that you know enough about the story you want to tell to have already polished off a few chapters, but still can’t confidently guess your driver. Trust us, you’re not alone. Some authors have even come up with tests to help them decide just what it is they’re writing, but Terrell from How to Write a Book Now has our favorite solution:
“When in doubt, think of the climax of a story. Is it a decision or an action?”
If the big moment in your novel comes down to a decision by a character, one that could’ve been different had you enlisted a different protagonist, then you’ve got the makings of a great character-driven story! However, if the climax was going to happen anyway — if it was an action always beyond a character’s control — then you have a plot-driven story, by thunder.
With the right driver, your story will read like a dream! Unless, of course, it’s a terrifying dystopian narrative, in which case we’re sure your reader’s screams will echo in tandem.