How to (Briefly) Write a Novel
  • Here’s how you create a character:

    Julia …

    Here’s how you develop your character:

    liked strong men with brooding features and complicated brains.

    Here’s how you create a new character:

    She made Michael’s acquaintance

    Here’s how you create a setting:

    in a quiet diner, one warm and windswept autumn evening, along the outskirts of Tucson.

    Here’s how you develop your new character:

    He was sitting alone at the counter, two stools down from Julia, and he didn’t seem to notice her but stared into his coffee cup. He appeared distracted, his brows knitted, his forehead thoughtful and grave —

    Here’s how you further develop your initial character:

    a fact Julia specifically noticed, much in the way that (tilting her head in the mahogany light) she noticed the open book beneath his forearm.

    Here’s how you introduce foreshadowing, a new paragraph, and also your theme (which in this abbreviated example is, let us say, beauty and permanence and the artistic temperament):

    On this forearm, stamped over a web of wormy veins, was a tattoo the likes of which she’d never seen: it was of a marble sculpture — a sculpture depicting a nude woman — perfectly rendered and perfectly unambiguous. Yet next to it, hovering to the left of the sculpture’s head and entirely ambiguous, was a small white birthmark, or perhaps a scar, in the shape of jigsaw-puzzle piece.

    Here’s how you add tension and build your plot:

    The man’s fingers were long, beautiful, compelling fingers, and they moved in a strange and almost disembodied way across the countertop. Julia found herself transfixed by them, and was appalled to discover herself thinking next about those fingers upon her body.

    Here’s how you introduce a certain amount of suspense:

    That thought, however, was interrupted when the man lifted his arm and the book slapped shut — and she saw the drawing on the back cover. She nearly gasped.

    Here’s how you introduce dialogue:

    “Where did that come from?” she said. Her voice was barely a whisper.

    Here’s how you intensify the sense of mystery and reinforce your theme:

    He looked at her, but he didn’t speak. At that moment, the waitress came to fill his water glass, but spilled a little on his forearm — and on the perfectly rendered sculpture there. To her surprise, the ink began to run, the sculpture’s face melting away. The puzzle-piece birthmark remained.

    Here’s how you exploit your theme through dialogue:

    “It isn’t permanent,” the waitress said.

    Here’s how you develop your character through dialogue:

    “No,” he said.

    Here’s how you charge your situation:

    “The book cover,” Julia said. “The drawing … it is the same drawing my brother made for me, when I was a child. I mean, it is identical.”

    Here’s how you further charge your situation:

    “I know,” he said.

    Here’s how you develop your plot through dialogue:

    “Where is my brother?” she said.

    Here’s how you gradually add information to keep readers interested:

    “Your brother is dead.”

    Here’s how you develop your initial character through dialogue:

    “No,” she said.

    Here’s how you introduce conflict:

    “Yes,” he said. “He killed himself. But he left you something — something that certain people would kill to have.”

    Here’s how you end your chapter:

    He spoke these word and turned his head away and looked toward the window, beyond which, under an indigo sky, a pair of dust devils sprung up among the sandhills. He watched the dust devils spin themselves out, then he turned back to Julia. “It is time,” he said.

    [Note: this was originally posted here over a year ago. A kind reader asked if I’d repost it.]

    October 24th, 2013 | journalpulp | No Comments | Tags: , , , ,

About The Author

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning as the constant in my life.

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