Tag Archives: plot planning

Writing Tips: Make Maps (Interior)

2 Apr

Website Update: April 3rd: I switched some posts around; sorry for the inconvenience if you were waiting for the publishing tips on April 4th. It will now be on April 6th.

So this is my 100th post, and there’s 29 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release. (Obviously, numbers excite me.) And I’m celebrating by posting two writing tips in a row :] Hope you enjoy!

Click here to join my Facebook Author Page! Your support brightens my day every day.

Click here to join my Facebook Author Page! Your support brightens my day every day.

The believability of your novel is going to reside on many factors: characters, plot, language, etc. But these are the obvious reasons, and many writers forget that the smallest details can also make or break your credibility. I’ve talked about this before in Writing Tips: Keeping Track of Time on March 11th. I described the importance of tracking every minute, day, month, and even moon cycles of your novel, and now I wanted to discuss the physical world you also need to track.

When I write a story, I always draw maps–both of the exterior and interior of places within the story. I even draw a much larger map, showing how the story moves. But that’s for another post. Today, I’m strictly clarifying the importance of a floor plan. Where’s the living room, kitchen, and bedroom? How are these places laid out? Where do your characters stand? What would they be near? These questions are important, because you can easily contradict yourself from scene to scene.

For example: In chapter one, you may describe Person A walking through the living room to get to the kitchen. THEN–ten chapters later–you write about Person A (or someone completely different) coming out of the kitchen into a hallway that leads to the front door next to the living room.

These little mistakes, even if the reader isn’t consciously aware of it, can upset the flow and take them out of the story. In other words, they may feel as if something isn’t quite right.

We can avoid this with detailed maps. (Even if you base your places on real-life, because you’re bound to change something.)

I really recommend drawing the map before you write a significant amount of your story. In my opinion, you can wait until that room appears in the book, describe it naturally, but then take note on EVERYTHING you said. That way, when you come back to the scene, everything is in place.

Another way to record it, however, is to physical draw or use realtor websites that allow you to create a room digitally.

I really like RoomSketcher, because you can morph the walls, stack floors, and even add furniture. I wasn’t able to use this while making November Snow in 2007, but I did make two with this website for an example:

NFlock

Northern Flock Home

The first drawing is of the first floor of the Northern Flock’s home. If you’ve read November Snow, you know many of the scenes take place here, so making sure my characters’ movements were flawless was very important. On the left, you’ll even see the lamp by the stairs, because it (and I don’t want to spoil anything) becomes very important at some point in the novel. This is just another reason to guarantee that I knew where it was. Other furniture that I used was a couch, desk, T.V., dining room table, and everything in the kitchen–the fridge, oven, and sink. The doorways are also very important, because it shows how the characters could leave and enter while also reminding me what would be in front, behind, to the right, and left of them as they did so.

As a comparison, I also created Calhoun’s house.

Calhoun's house

Calhoun’s house

I did this to show how RoomSketcher can allow you to create your own floor with walls, carpet, windows, and stairways. It’s very easy to use, and there’s even different kinds of furniture you can choose from. (Notice Daniel’s room–the blue one–has a different colored bed than Calhoun’s.)

I’ve had these maps drawn since I began writing, and it allowed me to be confident that my book could correlate with such pictures. I have no doubts that, if you read November Snow today, you could follow my maps along with the characters.

I have to admit that some rooms, homes, or even streets are very clear to me, and I very rarely have to go back to my notes. However, when writing the smaller scenes, the ones that I probably do struggle with, I often go back during revisions and use a pencil to trace the movements. This may seem tedious, but I feel as if it is necessary, and I have found mistakes before.

Plus, it’s fun to take a break from writing and editing to create something else. And you can share it as an extra with your readers & fans! I know I’ll keep spending more time on this website. I love how easy it is to manipulate the walls, the furniture, and recreate something without losing what I’ve already made. (I’m a pen addict, so that’s really hard to do when I draw on paper.)

I suggest you guys try it out too! And if you don’t like RoomSketcher, I remain loyal to the dedication of drawing a physical map. In the future, I will expand on how to draw an exterior map and/or trace the movements of characters in specific scenes along with overtime in general.

Good luck & have fun! (I also have Interior Maps for “Minutes Before Sunset” coming April 4.

~SAT

UPDATED: April 4: Movie Mention: The Host

April 6: Publishing Tips: Introduce Extras.  

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Writing Tips: Exposing Secrets

14 Jan

Ever since I posted “Writing Tips: How I Form Dialogue into Writing” I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking for other tips, so I wanted to talk about secrets.

We all have them.

Secrets can make us or destroy us—they can tear our relationships apart or allow us to succeed at our dreams. In reality, secrets can really form who you are by asking the question: Why are we keeping them? What is stopping us from sharing them? Are we afraid we’ll be rejected? Are we shamed? Could it ruin someone we love?

There is an infinite amount of reasons as to why we keep and/or tell secrets.

So what about your characters?

In my opinion, I think every character should have a secret. Even if the secret isn’t exposed in the novel, it will round them out and push them deeper into the plot.

However, your characters’ secrets don’t need to be exposed all at once. That’s a huge pet peeve of mine. Secrets should be stretched over the plot, enticing the reader to relate while learning more about your story’s characters.

As an example, I’m adding November Snow character notes below this. First, you’ll see their name, a brief description, and then the page number where their biggest secret is revealed. November Snow is 600 pages long, so pay careful attention to how the secrets span out. Who is exposed first? Why do you think that is? How do you think the timing effects the other characters (and even the reader)?

….

Serena, the heroine, is the Southern Flock’s second-in-command. She’s a 17-year-old bad blood, and her POV is challenged by her love for Daniel. (Page: 573)

Daniel, the male protagonist, is the leader of Northern Flock, and his 18-year-old POV struggles against society’s hatred for bad bloods. (Page: 459)

Calhoun Wilson saved Daniel’s life when he was five years old. Despite being a former solider, he protects the Northern Flock from the government. (Page: 282)

Caitlin: Serena’s best friends and practical sister. (Page: 527)

Henderson: The candidate running for president of Vendona. He believes in equal rights for bad bloods. (Page: 275)

Ryan: A young bad blood in the Northern Flock who’s body heats up like fire. (Page: 585)

….

I hope this shows how secrets can be revealed over a span of time—rather than all at the end of the novel. Some should come early, while others shouldn’t be exposed, but these characters’ secrets are essential to November Snow by defining the characters, their troubles, and their hope for beating them.

As I wrote in November Snow: “No one wanted to die with secrets in their grave.”

~SAT

As an extra: November Snow‘s highest rated quote on Goodreads: “I would only blame myself if something happened to you.”

If you’re interested in other quotes from November Snow, click here.

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