An author must be clear on who is telling the story. Generally, it is the protagonist, the main character. But, it can be someone else. For today, let us focus on the fact that the voice in the story is the point of view, sometimes noted as the POV. The POV involves what the story-teller knows. If an all-powerful character, God, is telling the story, that POV knows what every person in the story is saying and doing. If a friend is telling the story, the friend only knows what happened, and what was said, when she/he was present. POV can be confusing. For now, it is important that the writer select a POV, and sticks to it until the end of the story. It might be helpful to read a few things, and try to identify the point of view, who is telling the story. Multiple POVs, the story told from various perspectives, will be discussed soon. Any questions?
I stress once again, write what you know. Your experience is useful, especially if you are bilingual and/or bi-cultural. Your bi-cultural background informs your writing. Use other cultural words to add color to your work when writing in English. If you lack experience, do some research. Reading about something may be helpful, but actually doing it, being there, smelling, or feeling it is most valuable. There are virtual tours of cities and other places on line; but if you have an opportunity visit the city, or place. If you have a scene that takes place in a Mexican mercado, recall the sounds, colors, smells, and texture of fruits, vegetables, meat, the people and how they speak. Use your sense of smell, touch, hearing, and sight. Doing this brings your writing alive. It roots it in reality, and lends robust flavor to your story and its characters. Here is a suggestion: Describe a place using all your senses. This place may be a Baptismal in a Catholic Church, lunchtime in a neighborhood restaurant, walking through the Spanish Market in Santa Fe.
I don’t outline in much detail. I lay out my story in three phases: the beginning, the middle, and the end. I estimate how many chapters are needed in each section; three or four, and include 3-4 facts for each chapter. Generally, I know my chapters are about fifteen pages. The number various according to the complexity of my story.
My introduction phase, chapters one, two, and three introduces the characters: who has a conflict, or problem, around which the story revolves. I call this my foreshadowing phase. It hints on what is to come.
The middle chapters are longer, or there are more of them; perhaps five. The middle gives more detail to what was foreshadowed in the introduction. This section is the guts of the story. If I mention in the introduction that someone from the police department left a message on the answering machine, as I do in my next book Daughters of the West Mesa, I give it more detail in the middle. The middle is longer. Here I write about the extent of the conflict: I elaborate on the who made the telephone call, what they wanted, when they want to meet my main character, where they meet, and add how the conflict/problem evolved to this point. In this section I bring the conflict/problem to it’s peak.
In the last phase I resolve the conflict for the main characters. Each character needs to want something, and this thing comes to completion in the last phase. These chapters are shorter.
If I outline, I keep my outline simple, and keep referring to it. It is the road map through the joinery of my story. Basically, I tell my story in three stages: (1) the introduction, (2) the expanding on the introduction, and (3) the solving, or closure section. Think of your book as needing a beginning, middle, and an end.
BEGINNING: Chapter one introduces all the characters and who has a problem. If the character does not enter the story until later on in the book, I make reference to him or her in chapter one. For example, in my next novel, Daughters of the West Mesa, I introduce such a character in the first chapter by noting my lead character has a message for him on the telephone answering machine. She ignores the message and does not call him until chapter three. Chapters two, three, four expends on the problem or needs of the characters. All the characters need something.
MIDDLE: Chapters five, six, and seven hint at how the characters try to solve their problem or need.
END: In the ending chapters seven, eight, and nine, each character meets their need and/or solves their problem. I call this the-killing-off-of-characters section. The last chapter, the end, places closure on the entire book. I then review my outline making sure I included the main points.
All writing begins with a first draft. For some this is the hardest part. Have no fear. This is a private matter between you and your computer. No one has to see it if you want it that way. Yes, I assume you have a computer. It makes producing a finished product manifest much faster. If you write pen, or pencil, to paper that also works well. Nevertheless, the objective is to write. Some writers need an outline. I’ll discuss this later. For now, write; especially if you know your story. Simply, write. Do not bother checking spelling. Write as fast as you can. There will be time enough to return to your work and rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit.