Once the writing process has begun and step one is complete (check out What is the Writing Process? Step 1) it’s time to move to tackling the second step. The second step to the writing process is all about beginning to figure out the details of the world, characters, relationships, and scenes in the story. Writing out the overall picture of the three act structure in the first step is important to understand the zoomed out picture of the story. This step is important to zoom all the way in and begin to grapple with the finer details of the story.
World building: For world building notes, I list out as many details about as many of the places I’ll be exploring in the story as I can. I write about the layout of the city or the town my character will reside in, describe the room my character lives in and all of the details I know about the interior of the home. One of my favorite parts of world building is creating the outside spaces in my stories. I imagine myself sitting in a field with my character and what season it is, what the grass feels like beneath my hands, or what kind of trees I’m looking at with my character. I also think about the journey my character is going to go on and write down any details about how they get from one place to another and what the places the character will visit in between look like. Once I have as many of the details about the places important to my characters as I can, I move on to the characters.
Character: I LOVE working with my characters. A lot of my relationship with characters is them speaking to me or showing me things about themselves. Once I begin writing about them, I get to see who they are, how they react to situations, who they care most about, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what matters most to them. I used to fill out generic character profiles for each of them, but I found that more often than not I was trying to wrestle them into a mold that didn’t give me the best picture of who they are. Instead, I started treating it as a conversation, where I would imagine asking them questions and then let them fill me in as they wanted to. Some characters might not come through as strongly as others and once I figure out as much as I can about them individually, I jump into figuring out their relationships to each other.
Relationships: This step is huge and not to be skipped. The relationships between the characters is what drives the story. It is what changes a character from beginning to end, what pushes them to be their best or worst selves, and is a major factor in what will make or break them achieving their goals. I begin this step with the basics, listing out my characters names in pairs or groups, explaining how the characters are related, fall in love, or become friends. Then I make notes about what those moments mean to the character or how those moments line up with the development of that character. Once all of that is set, details about the world, the characters, and the relationships, it’s time to write about some scenes.
Scenes: Writing out scene ideas can happen in any order in any fashion. Some scene ideas come to me very detailed and I can draft a chapter based on what I know will happen start to finish. Other scene ideas are not as solid and those are written down in maybe only a few sentences. Sometimes if one scene leads me into another and another, I might find myself writing a short story about the story. These short stories are either integrated into the final first draft or used solely as reference when I get into the drafting process. Once all of these pieces of this step are complete, it’s time to get ready for step three.
What solidifies first in your mind when you’re contemplating a story? Do you see the world first or get to know a character first? Remember, you are doing your best and you are more than enough.
A very important disclaimer, as seen in previous steps of this process: This answer is going to be vastly different from writer to writer, and sometimes project to project. The steps in this series are not meant to be followed exactly and precisely each and every time a writer takes on a project. I’m describing the steps and the process I loosely follow when starting a writing project. Each part and piece is a distilled version from advice, workshops, conferences, worksheets, teacher training, student experience, and other things I know I’m surely forgetting that have all settled into this version of what my writing process, generally speaking, is today.