As I’ve been detailing over the past few days, several parameters have to be in place before I can begin writing. First I develop characters, then I come up with a premise—not a plot, per se, but more of a situation that requires action.
I’ve discovered that once I’ve found my premise, it’s helpful to decide what my characters’ opinions are of the situation and of each other. No one should be ambivalent. Each character should have strong feelings one way or another about every other character, even if they cross paths only briefly. I think it’s fun to have a character make an offhand comment about another character they barely know. It gives fuller perspectives of the characters and can be very revealing.
Ideally, the characters won’t all love each other, or else there will be no tension. Sometimes it’s helpful to draw a circle, with each character being a point on the circle, then draw a series of lines connecting everyone to everyone else. On the lines, write a few words to explains how that character feels toward the other one. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time—as you’re writing, it’s very likely that your story will require a character to feel differently than he does. What’s more important is that you start somewhere.
What’s great about this web of relationships is that it will begin to define your characters’ motivations. If you are clear about how they feel, you’ll know what they will or will not do. Then, as their motivations prompt them to action, the chess game begins. Every action will prompt reaction in the other characters—which will spur them to action, and so on. Heck, once you get going, this stuff will practically write itself.
Tomorrow, the final piece that makes everything fall into place.