If you live in the Vancouver, BC area, bridges are essential conduits. You may start out knowing your destination, but you aren’t likely to get there without travelling over a bridge or two. It’s all part of the charm and challenge of living in a coastal city.
As I travelled home via the Golden Ears Bridge the other day I was reminded that getting around the city is much like navigating the first draft of a novel.
Most of my novels originate from a mental image of a character. Once I’ve explored the who, what, why, where and when aspects of that image, I have a place to start. With the character’s situation clearly defined, my next step is to determine the character’s goal – i.e., what’s the destination, the point of the journey?
Then I have to find a way to bridge the distance between beginning and end. I need to know what interferes with the character’s ability to move from the starting point to the destination. Without obstacles there is no conflict, nothing to entice the reader to accompany this character on the journey. Without conflict the trip is nothing more than a boring documentary about the scenery along the way.
What makes some writers excellent navigators, while others are mediocre tour guides?
We often hear of the importance of beginnings, middles and endings, and that’s the way some ‘pantsers’ proceed. They make a start and wander the highways and byways in search of an uncertain destination. I’m inclined to think the order of importance should be beginnings, endings and middles. I guess that makes me more of a planner than a pantser. I don’t do well trying to outline, but I have to have some idea of where I’m going before I turn the key in the ignition.
How do you get from the beginning to the end in your writing? How do you determine the kind of bridge you’ll use?