Monday, 5 September 2016

Brainstorming and Research

So I'm FINALLY done with the first stage in my novelling process - the brainstorming and research.

I feel like I know enough about my world, characters and plot now so I can jump into my story, start fleshing out the plot and working on my outline - the part I've been looking forward to and dreading in equal portions - but we can talk about that another time.

Overall, I spent roughly a month brainstorming and researching for The Prince of Blades. This was a brand new idea to me. When I first thought of it - I knew next to nothing, so I had ALOT of work to do before I was convinced that this was a story I could really work with.

I know that some writers do very little brainstorming and researching when they first begin their novel. They prefer to discover things as they go, and that's great. But I'm a planner - and I can't move from one step to another without feeling secure in what I have done so far. So I brainstormed up a whizz, and I researched my little butt off - and I got WAY excited about this book and everything that I came up with along the way.

Every book is different, just as every writer is different. So this first stage will be different for everyone. But for me, I found it incredibly useful in building the bare bones of my novel and exploring potential ideas. In this blog post, I'm going to give a little bit of insight into the things that I did to prepare me for the outlining stage.

My novel has them.

But who are they? What are their names? What do they like doing? What are they scared of? Why are they here? Who do they love? What is their story?

These are all questions that I've been asking myself during this process. Characters are the driving force behind your story. You can have the best plot in the entire world, but if your characters are dull and unrelatable - chances are your readers isn't going to stick around.

So characters was the first port-of-call for me. I worked out who I needed in the story (and why). I also spent a really long time figuring out their names. I researched different nationalities and meanings, explored baby name sites, fantasy name generators, and finally came up with a cast of characters with names that fit them perfectly.
Some credit definitely goes to my Mum though. She came up with more than a few names in the book when I would throw her a text like 'What's a good name for an exotic, sexy princess?'

After I had everyone named, I wanted to explore who they were. That's where character profiling came in. I'm going to do a whole separate post about characters profiles, so I won't ramble on too much here - but I basically figured out everything I could possibly want to know about my characters. Some of it might never see the light of page - but I know it, and that makes me feel better when I write about them. I know them now.

I did start to find this part quite tedious. I have ALOT of characters in The Prince of Blades, and I want them all to matter. I want them all to feel real, and human. So I profiled all of them - and it took a long time. But I'm glad that I did it and I 100% recommend doing this for your characters before you start writing your novel.

My book is set in a world that isn't ours - but is similar to ours in many ways. I wanted to keep it grounded in reality, but I didn't want the constrictions of our world. I wanted to invent things, and have things happen my way, without someone pointing out that that isn't realistic enough, or they would never be able to do that!

I'm calling it a fantasy world, but there isn't really any magic. There are hints of some supernatural forces, but nothing major. So is it fantasy? I don't know?

I worked out the name of my world (it's called Etharia in case you were wondering), and then I worked out how it functioned. Who ruled it? Was it split into countries like ours?

To come up with country names, I used a lot of Latin inspiration. When you see the names in the novel, you instantly get a sense of the place in our world that it's based on. Here are a few examples:

China - Uspijan
England - Angliae
Italy - Florentiae

.... you get my drift.

A large part of my book is spent at sea, or in various pirate places. So I brainstormed a thousand and one ideas for names of seas, coves, bays, storms, regions, cliffs, caves, harbours etc. I won't use every single name on my list, but I have them there to refer to when I need to name somewhere in my writing.

Having a sense of the world where my story is based, is essential. If I want this place to be believable, I have to know the details.

Like I said, there isn't really any magic in my world, but there are elements that stray from the ordinary. For instance, my crew go to a Seer for advice. She lives on the cliffs and seems to know way more than she should. Is she magic? Is she a witch? We don't really know.

Also, my characters believe in a lot of sea gods and deities - as well as religion on land. To come up with these, I delved into pirate and sea lore from all over the world. I took inspiration from all over and then came up with my own versions of the gods that my characters worship and fear. These gods never make a physical appearance in the book, but are referenced throughout and we never truly know if they are real or not.

There are a few instances in my book where I had to flat out make shit up in order to push the plot forward. Here is an example. In real life, it would be impossible for a large pirate ship to be crewed by a group of ten women. But I didn't want to add irrelevant characters to my plot, just so the ship could leave I invented an element called Coals. These work like an engine, propelling the boat and giving it that extra man power needed to sail it. Problem solved.

The invention of the Coals led to more plot developments in my mind. Where do they get Coal? Is it expensive? Are there different kinds? What does it look like? Maybe they can use it for other things - they could heat up water with it....use it for cooking......the possibilities are endless - that's what I love about brainstorming.

After spending so long figuring out my characters and the world they live in, I feel really confident to move forward to the outlining stage and begin working on the novel in a more structural format. Without this first step, I wouldn't know half of the stuff that I know now, I wouldn't have half the ideas for scenes that I have now, and the book wouldn't be half as good as it will be due to spending the time fleshing out the world.

Some of my brainstorming and research notes. Plus cat.

At the moment, I have JUST started working on my outline, but I hope to have it finished really soon. I will be putting up a post next week about how I used profiles to build my characters, and the steps that I followed to create believable and complicated people to fill my fictional world with.

As a side note - my uni course starts NEXT WEEK, so I'm not entirely sure how much work on the book I will be able to get done right away...but I'm hoping to keep on track.

Are you writing a novel?  Did you use a brainstorming and researching process? Or are you just someone who jumps right in and waits to see where the journey takes you?

Let me know, and don't forget to follow me on Bloglovin (link is up in the corner), on Twitter @ABlndeLibrarian and on Instagram @ablondelibrarian


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