Tips from the Writer’s Guild: Creating a novel – developing the core story elements

Carl Smothers

Have you got a story to tell? I have wanted to write a book since I was 12 but didn’t know how to get started. Then I was too busy with my career. When I retired the time to do it was finally here. Here’s how to get started.

Story Concept. When you decide to write a novel, various ideas will flash into your mind. Write each of them down and think about what kind of story you might be able to spin around each one of them. You’ll know when the right one surfaces. The best story ideas, in my opinion, can be described in one sentence such as: A young girl is desperately searching for her mother after being kidnapped at birth; or Trying to change history, terrorists develop a time machine and go back in time to assassinate future leaders.

Plot. In literary terms plot can be defined as a sequence of related events in a story leading to the accomplishment of some objective important to the protagonist (hero) or his antagonist (villain.) For example, in my novel The Wormhole Project, there are two related plots: The protagonist is creating a wormhole technology to allow mankind to explore the stars. Terrorists infiltrate and sabotage his project, steal the technology and develop a weapon of mass destruction to destroy America. The hero has to figure out how to stop them.

Setting. When writing a novel the goal is to create a story that pulls your readers into that world and keeps them engaged. The story can be set in the past, the present or future times. Personally I like futuristic themes such as the world of science fiction, which opens other doors: an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program with an evil agenda, alien invasions, spaceflights to strange worlds, interplanetary wars, or doctors who harvest and sell human organs.

These are three of the six basic core elements which help the writer ensure continuity and develop a great story. In the next article we will discuss the final three: character development, point of view and voice (first or third person). Stay tuned!