…Are the fun part for me.
[WARNING: philosophical ramble ahead, coherency not guranteed]
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love plotting a good plot. And worldbuilding, of course, who doesn’t love worldbuilding? I’ve had long and lovely discussions (read: bitching sessions) with fellow writers in recent years about voice, tense, perspective, and all other items comprising the mechanics of the craft, and I find all of it fascinating, even (occasionally, and for limited periods of time) sentence structure and punctuation, perhaps because I am hopelessly in love with the fickle semicolon and the carelessly cruel em dash.
Or, just perhaps, because I spend hours each day arguing with imaginary people about imaginary events, and I am slightly crazy.
Anyway. I can go on forever about finding voice, untangling the ball-of-string-type-plot vs. fleshing out the starveling-plot, prepositional phrases (ok, I can’t go on very long about those without large quantities of wine, but you get the idea) etc., etc., ad infinitum: but for all talk of voice and plot and premise, certainly primary concerns when writing a novel, I have to admit that despite the fact that without these you don’t have a novel, I don’t start there.
I start with a character. A character often close to fully formed after the first scene, with layers I don’t entirely understand and a history I have to haul out of them bit by bit; but the sense of it is there in its entirety by the time I get done with the first paragraph of internal monologue or the first resentful/longing/frightened observation of another character, or a piece of the landscape, or what-have-you. All I have to do is wait and the rest will come eventually.
This seems a bit backwards to me: surely I should start with a premise. And I’ve tried. Girl with weird hobby gets caught in the middle of bloody intrigue and must sacrifice herself to save her friends. Man with the power to pull memories from people’s minds and make them visible must find a way to live with his own. There’s plenty of character hiding in those sentences; more than enough to get me started. I could even, after a bit of mental wrangling, form the first inklings of a plot from them. But no: I have to sit and write out that first scene, out of no particular notion I can identify but raw impulse – the first chapter of any MS is the most thoughtless for me, with no planning or analysis in it alt all. (And it says plenty that I always end up rewriting it later on.) By the end of it I have a person on paper, full of tangled motives and messy histories I need to unwind and examine, and one or two crystal-clear agendas that form the basis of my outline. And later, when I get stuck, as I always do at least twice during the course of any novel, it’s my characters that invariably get me out of whatever corner I wrote myself into.
I know writers who start with that first building-block, the premise. Writers who start right off with a plot, and kudos to them – the very thought of that makes me shrink. Writers who start with a world, possibly hardest of all (at least for me). And me and a few others I’ve come across, for whom inception and impetus all come from an imaginary person or three.
Weird. But fun to think about, and funner still to do.
So what do you start with?