When I’m writing a story, I usually write it in layers. The first way that I construct each chapter is only a rough draft. I have never written a chapter that couldn’t be improved, which means I have never written a story to the end without going back and revising it or rewriting certain parts over and over again.
On day one, I wrote the first chapter then continued to write as the voices shared things and each scene unfolded. I like to call the initial chapter I wrote the bones of that chapter. Because I have been writing a long time, I know that more things need to be added to bring life to this chapter, because bones can’t live on their own. They need muscle and blood and tendons and skin.
If I was to break down each of these components, the bones is the meat of the chapter. It’s the motive driving the reader to read on, such as what’s being revealed in this chapter that hooks the reader further and makes them curious as to what’s going to happen next.
I would say that the tendons are anything that’s mentioned that connects the motive to the characters. Muscles give movement, action. Skin is what holds the body together. It’s also what can be seen on the surface.
I don’t go back right away and reread over chapters I’ve written. I like to wait to add more chapters to see a clearer path that my plot is taking. This way I can see what’s happening further ahead and have an understanding (even if partly) of where the plot will eventually take me.
When you think of an artist – a painter – it’s the same thing. They face a blank canvas then gradually add more colors and images until they have a final picture. It’s that same way with me while I’m writing. Whenever I reread a chapter I’ve written, I’ll add milieu where it needs to be added or a character’s point of view or thoughts on what’s happening around them. What I also pay more attention to is dialogue. Each time my characters speak, I need the reader to hear that character’s actual voice. This is the same with their behavior. I want their personalities to stay in sync and not write as if they’re schizophrenic, their emotions, thought and actions all over the place. To do this, I must add words here and there to the original context until I can feel that the page I’ve written has actually come alive.
I don't want to give readers a skeleton. A book of only bones is the same as this skeleton begging a reader to open their door.
So how do I know when has my page come alive?
I know it because a well written page always sinks a person more into the book they’re reading. It captivates their attention and makes them eager to know more about what’s happening. It also gives a feeling of excitement and entertainment while reading, which takes me to a different subject. What I need to be mindful of while I’m writing is how far I should allow each character to go in their actions and behavior. There is too much to discuss on that particular subject, but I will say this. Think about the books you’ve read. What I’ve come across with new writers is they fear writing about bad things and they instead keep the story fluffy (happy). But if you look at some of the best selling stories that have made an impact on the market, these books includes harsh things happening to children, animals, men and women. If I can give an illustration of this, I can use the Harry Potter series. His adversary tried to kill him when Harry was only a toddler, and had even left his mark on Harry for all to see, and then the adversary continued trying to kill him in many ways. When you really think about all of the things Harry went through and suffered from, you can see that the author did one of the number one rules in fiction, which is to put their main character through the ringer.
What I don’t want to do as an author is overprotect my characters. In fiction, bad things will happen to the main characters of a book. I must let them happen, but write them in a way that’s acceptable to readers, which in turns point back to the original question of how far should a character go in their actions?
Like I mention earlier in this blog thread, you won’t learn everything you need to know about writing in one day. What I want you to keep in mind is that the more you write, many of the things you’ll find me mentioning will come to you naturally. The more days you read in this blog, the more your understanding of the writing process will open. There may be times that when something clicks, you may have to go back to a previous day and reread that page and subject, then put it to use because you understand more of what I was talking about and you now can see how you too can make it work for you and your story.
So remember, the original context of a chapter isn’t usually a finished product. I’m never afraid to go back and reword something or make a revision, and sometimes I do this over and over again the more I have the story written out, because the more I’m writing more of my plot is being revealed and as they are being revealed I get thoughts of how to go back and make something funny, or how to word a particular paragraph to hint at an approaching disaster that one of my characters will face. Once I have the entire story written out, I must revise and fine tune each paragraph and chapter until I no longer have only bones, but skin and muscles and tendons and blood, so while their holding the book they have something beautiful, as well as worthy of their time of reading and they'll have reactions like this.
You definitely want your readers to also have this reaction too! The more any writer can make a reader do this, the more they have sunk a reader into their story.
Have a nice day!