I’ve had the idea for a while. It’s a story about a man who likes being single and intends to stay that way, and a widowed single mom of two little girls who’s just trying to get by. He’s restoring an old house that was divided into a duplex. She needs a free place to stay while she looks for a job. I knew being around the heroine and her daughters would soften up the hero and make him realize what he really wanted was a family of his own. But I didn’t have a clue how I’d make that happen. Getting an idea is the easy part. Working out all the millions of details is something else entirely.
First thing I have to do is figure out who He and She are. What do they look like? Tall or short? Is their hair blond or brunette? Blue eyes or brown? Dimples or crooked grin? What are their personalities and their quirks? Are they shy, charming, distant? Sigh. It’s a long list.
Next up - their problems. Why doesn’t the hero want to be married? What happened in his past that made him that way? Is he afraid of commitment? Why? Did he have a father who was multi-married? A bad first marriage? What kind of childhood did he have? Did he have siblings? How many? What’s his greatest fear? Why? How can he overcome it?
The heroine gets her list of questions too. Why is she a widow? What happened? What’s her family background? Was it a good marriage, bad? What happened that she’s jobless? And don’t forget the little girls, they need personalities too.
Are you overwhelmed yet?
The only way to tell a character’s story is to know them completely – inside and out. So well that you could throw them into any situation and you’d know exactly how they will react and what they will say.
All this set up and background takes nearly as much time as the actual writing. And I haven’t even tackled the plot yet. That’s another round of decisions. What happens when they first meet? What keeps them from falling in love on the spot? How can their problems keep them apart? How can they each help the other to solve their problem? What’s their spiritual journey?
Okay, I’m worn out just thinking about what I have to decide. Preparing to write a book can be daunting. Each choice you make will lead you down a different path and you have to figure out which path will serve your story best.
Seriously, as much work as it takes to create a story, writers love it. Coming up with all the answers is fun for us. And when the combination works it’s exhilarating.