Breakdown of a Story Map

Last week I talked about characters and how I develop them. Over the next few weeks I’m going to break down the story into segments so you can get a feel for how an author creates a storyline.

I might as well start with the question where does the idea for the story come from?

For me, it includes something of interest. My first book Cold Sweat came out of a need to process narcissism. I knew what it was but I wanted to see it play out in on the page, articulating what it felt like to be in the wake of someone with the disorder. I worked through Letitia, who was raised by a woman high on the spectrum, but who was able to find wholeness through some therapy and a good man. It was cathartic.

I fell in love with Tish and Johnny and wasn’t ready to say goodbye when the end came. I thought it would be fun to keep going with the Scalera saga and the series was born. I already had the characters in Johnny’s siblings. I just had to come up with more of a backstory for each of them and create their “soul mate.” Because I knew there was more to Reject than met the eye, I wanted to explore his depths so it was an easy decision to pair him with Rissa.  I just had to add some conflict and a hook. Reject’s name was the impetus to introduce bullying and it became an underlying theme, bringing with it the usual insecurities which I was able to weave into the plot. Tony found his match in Tansy, who was homeless but who taught him the real meaning of courage. I wanted to redefine what the term meant and she helped me do that. She’d survived abandonment, worked hard, put herself through school but still couldn’t make ends meet. Her backstory included Appalachia, a region of the country I became curious about after reading Hillbilly Elogy. I learned a lot about coal country and what the industry did to the land and the people who lived there. The baby, Lana, was the one who was most affected by their father’s death. Sal was a policeman who was shot in the line of duty and Lana swore she’d never become involved with one. It could prove fatal. Of course, a policeman is exactly who she falls for, and Zach is more hero than your average cop. Dennis was a married man in Cold Sweat and for as much as I wanted to tell his story, I needed a fresh face to go with it. Not wanting to kill off his wife, I had them divorce. Conflict guaranteed. He was a music producer, so the new mate had to be a rock star he refused to work with. He finds Joy with a Marilyn Monroe kind of woman who knocks his socks off with her voice and her humility.

My mind is always working, sort of like an internet highway. I have a few dozen storylines going on at any one time, some worth pursuing, some not. If one morphs into a believable thread, and includes a character I want to get to know, I go with it, and expand from there. I ask a lot of what if’s, until I come up with a viable working theory.  Research usually becomes a necessary component in whatever choices I make. I’m a very curious person and I love the learning part of the process. I dive into each topic with total immersion. Homelessness. Bullying. Immigration. Appalachia. Stating a business. Genetics.

And my book cases prove it.