Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Guest Post - How to Start Your Book by Chris Malburg

Please join me in welcoming author Chris Malburg, whose book Man of Honor, I previously spotlighted on this post. Today he is providing a guest post on one of his steps towards writing a book.  Please leave a comment or question for Chris to let him know you stopped by. 

How To Start Your Book: First fall in love with your characters by Chris Malburg

As an author who is now beginning my 27th book project I'm now figuring out my characters. My novels are action-oriented thrillers, but rely on strong characters to carry the plot. In my latest thriller, Man of Honor, I wanted my readers to say, "Yes, I can see how she'd think or do that. Makes sense."
But equally as important in the case of Man of Honor, readers had to love Helen Schilling, the book's strong female lead. 

The first step in establishing that emotion is for me to love the character. How do I do that? I begin by imagining someone who actually possesses at least some of the strengths and weaknesses I know this character must have. In the case of Helen Schilling, I happen to know such a person in real life. I wrote a 25 page bio each on Helen Schilling and her husband/co-star Jack Schilling. Helen is the logical, planner of the two. She's pretty, smart as a whip, and a demon behind a sniper scope. Jack is an American patriot with a military background and more given to brute force tactics. Together they make a formidable pair. I give my characters personality traits that I respect and admire. I craft their appearances and demeanor in ways I am happy to spend the months dancing with them as I write the book. Bottom line, if I don't love these characters, my readers won't either.

Next, make them true to life. I always give my characters flaws—the heroes aren't all good and the villains have some redeeming qualities. This gives Li Yong, the Ivy-league educated cyber warfare villain in Man of Honor, multiple dimensions that readers can identify with and relate to. As the book develops if I need to change or add things to the characters I add that to the mix of traits. The most important thing is for my readers to care about the characters and what happens to them—even the villains. 

Now that Man of Honor was published on December 15, I've already moved on to my next project. Even though my four thrillers feature terror-based conspiracies on a global scale, they're actually character driven. So I’m again getting to know my characters. The image staring at you right now is my perception of Barbara Williams, the main character in my upcoming, Barbara Anne's Slider. Two of my books were inspired by songs. So it seems is Slider. The song is Surfin' Safari by the Beach Boys. The happy, summery, bouncy pace of this song epitomizes Barbara. It sets the tone of the book. I hear it often.

In Barbara’s case I want her history, her background, her family, successes, failures (especially her failures), I want to know her dreams and most importantly the flaws that make her human and relate-able. With this bio I can now predict her logical behavior in the variety of situations that she'll face throughout Slider.

Now I'm ready for story capture. I like organization; I work best with some sort of structure. So I identify the main scenes in the story. I write them down in outline form. With the scenes identified I can place them in the proper sequence that best tells the story. From the scenes comes the rest of the cast of characters. I create them as needed to move the story forward. For major characters I'll write their bio so I know them and how they'll logically behave in different situations. The supporting cast gets a few tells (maybe facial ticks, tats, verbal affinities, a partially torn off ear she keeps rubbing as if it were still there) in their character so readers will know them and place them in the scene.

All too soon it's decision time. I look at different points of view and first person vs. third person. Maybe I'll write one or two scenes both ways before making a decision. Who is telling this story and from what point of view is one of my biggest decisions. In Slider the story is about Barbara but it's being told in the first person by someone else who's close enough and so deeply involved with her that he provides credible narrative.
Now I begin writing the scenes. This is the creative part. It goes fast because I'm not worrying about literary perfection--just filling in the scenes. The literary part comes later.

So that's how I start a thriller. For me it's logical, organized, and ensures I don't waste time wondering down a wrong road that ultimately winds up on the cutting room floor. I was told in writers school that writing is not efficient. Nonsense. Time is precious. My goal is to be the most efficient writer I can be—one who meets his deadlines on time and on budget.

I hope you get a chance to see how this technique works by joining me for the ride that’s Man of Honor.

All the best,

Copyright©2018 by Chris Malburg. Content provided to Queen of All She Reads. Please do not copy without the written permission of Chris Malburg. If quoting please be sure to attribute the material quoted to the author.  

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks to Maria for allowing me to share how I start my thriller novels. I'm hoping to see how others do it and what they have to say about my process.