Preparing To Write
Before you write a story, you need to do a few things. You need to have a clear idea of what your story is going to be about. You need an idea. You need to know who your story is about. You need characters. You need to know where your action will take place. You need to build a fictional world.
I am not saying that you can’t write a story without the last two, but you do need the idea before you can write a story. So I will concentrate on what I mean by what you have to do before you write.
Of course, you already have an idea of what you want to write about. I’m going to treat that as a given. We know that. You wouldn’t be writing anything without an idea first. So you have an idea of what your story is, what is next? I like to write things down. So I will do a premise of the story.
The premise is just the idea formally written out. It doesn’t have to be long, a sentence or two, or an entire paragraph, just something written down. Capture the idea. That’s all you need for a premise.
Now who is the star of the story, the main character? What happens to the main character? I often write a synopsis of the story. This is a broad recitation of the story. This happens. Then this happens, which causes this and so on. It’s recitation of the action. There are no details. Just a series of what happened. I make a list of the characters that I will need. Some people do this in their heads and leave it there. I like to write it out. I also do a beat sheet and sometimes a mind map of the story, who is connected to whom and so forth. That depends on the story.
Before I write a story, I often develop the characters. I like to know who they are and what drives them. What their foibles are. Things like that. Some writers do that on the fly and I will sometimes as well, but often for a longer work, I like to have something I can look at to see who I’m writing about. I use it for consistency. I like to imagine what the characters look like before I make an error that needs to be corrected. I’ll make enough errors in the writing process without adding inconsistent character descriptions to them. It’s the same with settings. If I know I will be revisiting a particular place in the story, I will write a description of it. This is where world building comes in.
Even if your story is set on present day earth, you still need to describe the places your characters visit in the story. Having a sheet for each place keeps things consistent and helps you make less errors to fix in revision.
A lot of work goes into writing that never makes it to the final story. The readers don’t see it, but if you skimp on it, they will notice it is missing. The underpinnings of your story don’t have to be fancy, detailed, or flowery. It just has to be there.