The Creative Process Starts With Conception
Successful writers will usually approach their work logically and systematically. The first step is to generate an idea. The idea might be stated by broadly defining a theme, a very general setting, and one or two of the main events to be included in a plot. In other instances, you may conceive more detail from the start.

After generating the idea you need to systematically and broadly determine three main things:

1. The Character(s)
You will normally have one or more central characters, who you should define clearly, then write consistently about based on that description. You will also have minor characters.

It is important to write consistently about your characters, both in terms of their appearance, and their personality, because any inconsistencies will undermine your credibility. For example, do not describe your love interest as having “flashing green eyes” and then later refer to her eyes as being “like pools of melted chocolate where you could drown and die a happy man”. Similarly, if you portray your character as being insightful, sensible and likeable and then involve them in a petty squabble with another character about something very small-minded, your reader will find your story lacks credibility because they can not reconcile that behaviour with the description you have given of who your character is.

Early in the process of character development, you may find it difficult to keep your characters’ personalities and appearance clear in your head. In this case, it may help you to base characters broadly on people that you know so you can develop some consistency in writing about them until they take on a life of your own. Alternatively, you could draw a caricature (or create an avatar) of each character detailing their key features (eg hair and eye colour, style of dress etc). Try to infuse your drawings with as much of your character’s personality as possible to remind you of who they are and help you to maintain some consistency in the way they speak, behave and interact with other characters.
2. The Setting
This includes both the physical locations and emotional environments of the story.

Physical locations – Make sure you have a clear picture of the setting in your mind. Again, it may help you to draw some of your key locations and make notes about important features to ensure that you do not include glaring inconsistencies. For example, if in chapter one, you describe your protagonist watching the sun rise over the ocean from the deck of her yacht, you will not then have her sinking into the arms of her Prince Charming as they watch the sun set over the peaceful water – in the same location! Are they in an east coast or west coast location? Or if you open your story with your EMO main character staring at the hideous green wallpaper in her bedroom and wishing she was dead, you do not want to later describe the room by saying, “the bright light glared off the luridly white walls and seared into her eyeballs… etc.” Small details could be important depending on what information you reveal about your locations. Make sure you keep them clear in your mind.

Emotional environments – It is just as important to maintain consistency in your emotional environments as your physical locations. Otherwise you will confuse your reader and undermine the credibility and effectiveness of your work. For example, if you portray two characters as being mortal enemies, then any behaviour that strays from that must be clearly explained. For example, if two girls who are love rivals and have spent 17 chapters sabotaging each other suddenly go and get a pedicure together, it won’t make sense – unless you reveal that in fact they were in love with different identical twins and this discovery made them so happy, they were willing to bury the hatchet and became best friends.

3. The Events
The number and complexity of events will be determined by the length of the piece of work you are writing. You might start by listing a range of events that might be included, and then selecting those which can be “fitted” into the space allocated. In a short story, you should include only those events that contribute directly to the progress of the plot towards your denouement or ultimate philosophical conclusion. In a larger work, you will have space for far more events and can include things that serve only to make the story more exciting. The events may not necessarily contribute directly to your overall theme but they will add to the narrative in other ways.

In a short story, you might include an incident in which your main character commits an act of bravery, chivalry, cowardice etc which is designed purely to inform the reader about what sort of person he is. This will enable them to understand something that is important to your story’s conclusion later. For example, in a story with underlying themes of heroism and hard choices, you may choose to reveal early in your story that your main character’s little sister drowned in a boating accident while he was busy trying to save his dog. This will explain why, at the end of the story, he must abandon his horse in quicksand while rushing to rescue his lover. In this way, we will know that he is not heartless but in fact truly courageous as he is able to put aside his personal grief for his horse in order to save the life of his lover.

In a larger work, such as a novel, you might include many dramatic acts by the main character purely to keep the story interesting.  These acts may or may not have any special significance to the themes of your work other than to give momentum for the plot. Provided the actions of your protagonist fall within the accepted range of his/her personality, temperament and character – as defined by you at the outset – then you can feel free to include as much drama and action as you like. Of course, you may also include events that are designed to give greater insight into your characters as well, but the pressure for every event to be imbued with deeper philosophical significance is not as great as in shorter works.

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Recommended Reading
The following ebooks written by our principal (John Mason) and staff, are excellent supplementary reading for anyone studying bookkeeping. Click on a title for more information about contents as well as purchasing details through the school's online bookstore.

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