Okay, so we have our conflict established, we’ve blown through our book to see how it ends, (very important if you want to go back and foreshadow events, or, as in the case of a romantic suspense, plant clues where they need to be), and to see if we even have a story that will hold water. It’s mostly bare bones now, dialogue and a few stage directions, and the point of view in each scene has been established. Now it’s time to flesh out the manuscript.
This is where I add in the important external details, or what I call stage directions. (Who crossed the room, slammed the door, or gripped the pen too tightly, etc.). This is where I mine the emotions of the characters. I might have written a note to myself or somehow indicated that the hero is angry in this scene. This is where I find out WHY he’s angry, what is triggering his anger. Has he been betrayed? Does he just think he’s been betrayed? Whether he has been or not is immaterial. It’s how he feels about what has happened to him that matters in this stage. What is it in his background that makes him react so strongly to what the heroine just said or did?
This is the place where the back-story best fits into the story. Not as an information dump in the first three chapters, where the author is trying to let the reader know (in the author’s narrative voice) how the characters got to where they are at this point in the story, but in sprinkles and sparkles, coming from the characters themselves. A line or two of dialogue here, a couple of lines of internal narrative there…This is where I really get to know my characters inside and out, and I find this part of creating a story as much fun as getting it all down on paper in the first place. Because this is where I learn what really makes my characters tick, and more often than not, they are still full of surprises at this point. This is where I begin to shape each scene so that it reflects who my characters really are, deep down inside. This is where I pretty much fall in love with my story all over again. :-)
Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I wrap it all up into what I hope will be a story to be remembered.