When I started thinking about writing a fiction story, I had no idea what to do first. The only book I had written up to this point was a Navy Autobiography, and that didn’t require very much imagination. But now I wanted to create something… something from my imagination that others would read and enjoy. I wanted to have fun with it and make a credible contribution to the literary world.
Now what should I do?
Now that I had decided what to do, I realized I had no idea how I was going to do it. I knew I wanted to write some kind of mystery story, and I know I wanted it to be fun and realistic. First, I needed to decide on a place where the story would be based out of, so I chose New England. I have always loved New England, especially the coastal towns. If I could sell my wife on it, we would be living there now!
When I started looking over existing places in New England, none of them were exactly what I wanted, so I decided to make up a fictitious town. I needed a strange name, so I turned to the encyclopedia and looked for ugly fish caught in New England. After finding just what I was looking for, the fishing town of Ocean Pout, Massachusetts was born!
One thing I like about New England is the rich history, especially around a fishing town. Since my town was fictitious, I need to make up a history that was just as rich, so I read up on all the towns along Cape Cod and studied the surrounding history. The best thing about creating your own town is there is no old man on a porch somewhere to dispute your facts!
Forming strong characters.
Once I had a town and a direction, it started getting easier. I formed my main character after myself, or how I imagined I would be if I lived alone in a fishing town. Lyle Sullivan was a good start, but I needed a few more characters, so I gave him a sister, Lindsey, and some nephews, who were based loosely around my three sons.
I found out years ago, if you can base any of your characters around existing people that you know, then half of your work is done for you. I didn’t need create a personality for David, Alex and Robert Harris (Lyles’ nephews) because these three characters were based on my own children, whom I knew all about. If my son David was a daredevil, then so was David Harris.
I wasn’t yet sure of my plot, but I knew I wanted the bad guy (or bad girl, in this case) to be very mysterious. I wanted someone sinister who would immediately capture the reader and make them wonder. After a bit of thought, Ms. Charlotte came to life. Ms. Charlotte was very mysterious, and only communicated via the internet. The aura of mystery is what captured Lyle and drew him in to the story.
A Mystery is Afoot…
The United States is a beautiful place, with so many small towns and cultures. I wanted my story to move around the country, so it wouldn’t get boring for the readers. When I started looking at small towns, I noticed that there were hundreds of zip codes that were unassigned. The beauty of this was if I wanted a town like Auburn, Alabama, all I had to do was look for an unassigned zip code somewhere around Auburn and create my own fictitious town.
While I was figuring out all this zip code stuff, I thought of a name for my book. I decided that I would call the book Mystery, USA. Now, keep in mind, I have no idea what my book is really about yet, and no idea of what the plot is. I have a main characters, places and a villain, but no story line. So, I decided to put my book down for a day or so, until I thought of something.
The next morning, I was reading the newspaper and I saw a caption for a story that broke the day before; “Year old mystery solved in Decatur.” Thank was it! What if Lyle Sullivan joined a nationwide mystery club and traveled throughout the country solving mysteries? I was so excited about finding direction that
I started typing immediately and didn’t stop for three days. Now the story was coming together!
How will it all come together?
I was over half-way finished with my book now, but still had no idea how it would end. As you might already know, I was a Police Officer in the Persian Gulf for several years. This helped out when I was writing the mysteries, but how was I going to tie up the loose ends? I still had no idea what I was doing, so I just kept on writing mysteries for Lyle to solve until it finally came to me. I had no idea how that book would end until I was almost finished typing it.
I was so excited about the ending! Personally, I think it would make an excellent movie, but I am a bit biased. The last thing I needed to do was design a cover that looked cool. I really had no idea until I looked back over my book and remembered that Lyle had a cat named Lumbago (because he was a pain in the butt), and this cat had creepy eyes that seemed to glow in the dark. Yep, Lumbago it is!
The point to this all of this is…
Here is the point – I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote this book. All I did was write what I did know and kept writing until the rest came to me. If I had waited until I had a plot and an ending, I may never have written that book. Please, stop putting it off. Even if it is just an idea, write it down. Tomorrow, you will have another idea, and you will write it down too.
Lastly, it’s your book. If you decide you don’t like a part, write it over, or start again. Thomas Edison once was quoted as saying “I did not fail a thousand times… I discovered a thousand ways not to make a light bulb.” Stop worrying and start writing. I promise you, you will not regret it. I have lots of pointers on starting and publishing your book at the top of this page. So, get on with it already… your grandchildren want to read your book!