This post first ran on June 20, 2012. At that time, I was working on a new story for Love Inspired Suspense that released in 2013 as THE SOLDIER'S SISTER. Let's take a look back at how I "built" that story.
I love kids and kids’ toys, especially building blocks. Recently I watched a group of young children stack the wooden squares and rectangles and cylinders, one atop the other, and realized playing with blocks is similar to constructing a story.
I always think creating a proposal will be easy, but the opposite is usually the case. I start with an idea that forms the foundation for the book and build upon that initial concept by adding various “blocks,” such as an inciting incident, black moment and climax that fit together to move the story forward.
One of my reasons for writing the Military Investigations series is to showcase various aspects of military life, and the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) is a success story I wanted to feature in this next book. The program started after 9/ll to help soldiers seriously injured in the line of duty. Each wounded warrior is assigned an AW2 advocate as a liaison, of sorts, between the soldier and the military. The advocate helps with paperwork and medical care, career counseling and the soldier’s transition to civilian life.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION
Like many writers, when I begin a new story I start with the standard what if. What if my heroine accepts a position as an advocate in the Army Wounded Warrior Program at
, the fictional army post I
created for the series? Fort Rickman,
More what ifs. What if my heroine, Stephanie Upton, is from the nearby small town of
Her younger brother Will enlisted in the army after graduating from high
school along with two of his high school buddies. Will and a friend were injured in an IED
explosion in Freemont Afghanistan and
were reassigned to the Warrior Transitional Unit at . Fort Rickman
When a killer comes after the high school buddies, the hero—Criminal Investigation Division special agent Brody Goodman—is called in to investigate. (The book is a romance so Brody and Stephanie eventually fall in love and live happily ever after.)
With the basic foundation in place, I focused on coming up with an incident in the past that played into the heroine’s internal conflict. Had there been a car crash that resulted in the death of one of her brother’s friends? Was Stephanie at fault? Was her brother driving? Did the boys enlist in the army as a result of what happened on that summer night?
What if the incident caused friction between Stephanie and her brother? Perhaps Will transferred his own guilt to his sister who, he believed, was the catalyst that started the string of events that eventually leads to the story’s climax.
ADDING AN ANTAGONIST
The villain needs to be a worthy adversary with his own GMC. I wanted his motivation to stem from what happened in the back story. The car crash didn’t work so I added and discarded “blocks” until I came up with a new solution.
Needing a high-action opening scene to hook the reader, I decided the villain would attack one of Will’s buddies. The CID hero investigates the crime and becomes suspicious of the brother, which increases the conflict between the hero and the heroine. Stephanie wants to protect Will so, as much as she’s drawn to the CID agent, she is also worried about her brother.
ATTACKS AGAINST THE HEROINE
After writing eleven Love Inspired Suspense stories, I’m always searching for new ways to place the heroine in danger. The nightly news and Metro section of the
great resources that provided new and devious tricks for the villain to use to
up the suspense. Atlanta
CHECK MY STORY STRUCTURE
I needed the back story to be resolved in the climax and revolve around the hero and heroine’s internal conflict as well as their external goals. Each time I checked, my GMC seemed a bit off center, which, in my opinion, caused the plot to fall flat. I took long walks to clear my mind and discussed a number of different options with my daughters and husband until they rolled their eyes and backed away whenever I mentioned my story. Night after night, I would awake to weigh various scenarios until I finally came up with a satisfying back story.
HERO’S INTERNAL JOURNEY
Previously focused on the heroine, I changed directions and looked at my hero’s internal journey. Brody wasn’t as difficult as Stephanie, and I soon had a situation in his past that worked. Then wanting to up the tension, I tweaked his back story to make it more intense and personal.
The black moment occurs close to the climax when the problems between the hero and heroine seem insurmountable, and the reader wonders how they will ever be able to resolve their differences and end up together. Working on the black moment exposed how the conflict between the hero and heroine needed to be more compelling. I made some changes until what started out as mild disagreements morphed into significant differences that made me wonder how they could ever fall in love.
Once the story was in better shape, I added the faith journey for my two main characters and established how their relationship with God played into each character’s internal conflict, the black moment and the climax.
I established turning points for the romance and ensured the black moment was adequately motivated. I included the hero and heroine’s worst fears, reviewed the pacing and plot progression and ratcheted up the danger.
I rechecked characters’ ages, the dates and years that had passed since the back story incidents. In order to learn more about the AW2 program, I interviewed the Atlanta AW2 advocate and arranged to talk to her counterpart at
Fort Benning as well as the
executive officer for the Warrior Transition Unit. Fort Benning
At long last, my story construction seemed sound with all the building “blocks” in place.
How do you structure your story? What are the important elements you consider when coming up with a new idea for a novel? Comments are closed today, but I hope my lesson on "building" a story helps you with your own WIP.
Wishing you abundant blessings,
When Carrie York arrives at the house she inherited from her father in an Amish community, she's shocked to discover a soldier's body on the property. Her neighbor, army special agent Tyler Zimmerman, starts investigating the murder, and Carrie fears it's related to her father's mysterious death. Tyler doesn't trust the pretty speechwriter or the suspicious timing of her arrival—especially since her boss is responsible for his father's death. But when someone attacks Carrie, Tyler insists on protecting her. With his help, will Carrie be able to hold on to her inheritance and her life?