Tag Archives: writing

Choosing Novel Endings

It’s easy to see where a novel begins and ends, if it follows a character from birth to death much like in a biography. When it is only a piece of the character’s life choosing novel endings and beginnings becomes more complicated.

Stop and think about a child’s first day at school. The obvious starting point is that day. But did the story really start that day?

There are days, sometimes weeks of preparation before that day happens. Much of this can probably be worked into the novel as references to events or a flashback to something momentous rather than doing a day by day account which can end up boring the reader and the writer.

When does this story end? That will depend on what the story is about. It may end with the last school bell. But the story doesn’t really end there. The child would continue on to that night and to school again the next day.

As in real life, novel endings are always ambiguous to some extent. The plot for that particular happening ends, but the character does not. This is why writers can create a series.

cover for Broken Promises, Hazel Whitmore #1 by Karen GoatKeeper
I knew where to begin this novel about Hazel Whitmore. I thought I knew where to end it. I didn’t. Instead the first two books in this trilogy led to the next.

In the draft I am working on, the plot revolves around a flood. So Mindy, the main character, has time to prepare before the storm. There is the storm. Then comes the devastation after the flood.

Where does the novel begin? I elected to start with the preparation because I wanted to paint a picture of Mindy and her property before the flood. She is facing a major decision concerning the property and her life so her relationship to her property is important to understanding what happens later in the story.

What kind of novel endings can I choose? On the news a flood report is about the flood, maybe the day after and then the story fades away with sentence mentions about the clean up. So I could end the novel with the end of the flood.

Does a flood really end with the water receding? Not in real life. For those in the affected areas the flood’s aftermath has as great an impact or even greater than the flood. And this is the case with my novel.

Choosing novel endings and beginnings are crucial to a novel. A beginning can bore a reader into putting the story down or drag the reader in. The ending can drag on too long. Only the writer can decide.

Finding Character Motivation

Having an interesting, believable character is crucial to a good story. But it isn’t enough to make a story. Finding character motivation is what makes a story.

In creating a character the writer creates the looks, the emotions and the actions. But, if that well crafted character just sits around, a reader will wander away in a few pages. The character must do something meaningful.

People do not go rushing from place to place just to go rushing. They have reasons to go places, things they want to accomplish on the way and when they get to their destinations.

People do ultimately meaningless things like cleaning house. After all, even though the goal of a clean house can be realized, it is short term as dust and dirt quickly return. The purpose of cleaning is to keep the dust and dirt down to manageable amounts.

This is not a good story.

What is this new character going to do? Why would the character want to do whatever this is? Why does this matter?

Finding character motivation require the writer to answer these questions.

finding character motivation determined plot in "Edwina"

The answers may be as simple as adjusting to a new life normal, growing up a little as it was for Aleta in my book “Edwina”. The answers may be changes in the characters around the main character as it was in “Dora’s Story” where Dora’s purpose was to survive and live her life as a goat while the people who own her change because of her.

Emily from the goat novel Dora's Story
Developing Emily’s character was challenging as she appears as a young girl at the beginning of the story and later as a teenager.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the characters have many layers of motivations as each must face the loss of their former lives, rebuilding their new lives and learning to survive on a new planet. As I write the Planet Autumn series, each of the main characters must grow up even as they find they are ultimately on a planetary quest.

Notice the use of the word must. This is important for finding character motivation. The character must accomplish or attempt to accomplish some goal that changes who he or she is in some way.

Then the character becomes part of a story. The motivation determines the plot.

Creating Alien Creatures

As November flows past, I am busy with National Novel Writing Month. My novel project is called “The Mounzz of Autumn” and for it I am creating alien creatures.

Personally I am a practical person. I live in this world and have trouble imagining a different one.

I am not alone in this. When I read science fiction or fantasy, I often recognize where the creatures, the customs and more came from.

The challenge is in creating a world and creating alien creatures that are different enough to take a reader out of this world. Where do I start?

I start with the story. As I write, I find the people and the creatures begin to take shape.

For the Planet Autumn books, and Mounzz is the second one, I started with an original creature. It comes in many colors. It is a grazer so it eats grass and lives in a meadow. It is a herd animal.

creating alien creatures takes imagination
I have no idea what this creature is supposed to be. It has always been a favorite knick knack to look at and wonder about. Now I finally have a possible identity for it: a mounzz.

What does a mounzz look like? The original story idea was based on “Troubles with Tribbles” from the original Star Trek series. That gives me soft and furry.

A high school friend gave me a knick knack of an imaginary creature that lives on my computer tower. It is humped with a long snout.

Recently I read a book by Stephen J. Gould called “Urchin In a Storm” and found urchin was the British term for a hedgehog. I looked up hedgehogs.

And I have a good idea what a mounzz looks like now.

However I am not done creating alien creatures as any world must surely have more than one animal living on it. Another one is the sylvan.

What is a sylvan? It is something like a wood rat with some attributes of a squirrel.

Then there is the artyfox. The Planet Autumn may not be Earth, but it needs predators to help keep the mounzz population in check.

Once I got started, creating alien creatures turned out to be rather fun.