Freehold Friday: How I Write, part 1

How do I write?  Well…one word at a time.

Seriously though, all stories start with an idea—some authors use the old “what if” question to get things going—others use a particular scenario or event to start the story or serve as a backdrop to the story.

For Alea Jacta Est, the idea occurred to me (as I mention here) after watching news coverage of the Northeast blackout of 2003.  From there it took on a life of its own…I was just along for the ride.

Apache Dawn was a bit different.  I had an idea of some of the characters (namely Cooper and Chad)  but I didn’t know how they fit into a story.  I had written Chapter 1 as a short story—which was a dream I had during the H1N1 outbreak of 2009.  I had been listening to the local news talk about local schools shutting down to head off the flu epidemic and how upset people were over rescheduling football games.  We lived a little northwest of Fort With at the time so yeah, it was a big deal to even talk about high school football games getting shuffled around.

That night after a long day at work prepping my craft store for the upcoming Holiday season, I had a dream about a boy burying his parents during a pandemic.  He became Chad Huntley.

That story sat on my computer for a few years, until I saw on the news about a scientist trying to genetically force the 1918 flu strain to mutate faster than normal in an effort to track its changes until it became super-lethal to humans.  The outcry raised over this research when the scientist wanted to publish his results raised a pretty big question (not just with me, but the U.S. government, which tried to block said publication)—what if (that question again!) some terror group got a hold of that data and turned the 1918 flu into a bio weapon of biblical proportions?

Think about this: In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed over 500,000 Americans (that we know of…medical reporting back then flat out sucked) and more than 10% of the global population.   If an equal number of Americans were killed, proportionate to today’s population, we’re talking millions of deaths.  To put it in perspective, the Spanish Flu killed more people in 24 months than AIDS has killed in 24 years.

And this was the same bug that the scientist at the heart of the controversy wanted to force-mutate into something even more deadly.

So…my thought process was: say some organization that doesn’t like America turned it into a weapon?  How would they deploy it?  Where?  What would happen next?  Who would take advantage of that situation —and how?

And Apache Dawn was born.

Okay.  So I’ve got all these thoughts/fears/questions/nascent stories in my head.  After I find the duct tape and wrap my head to keep it from exploding, I grab a notebook.

I make a rough outline starting at the beginning (I’ll use Apache Dawn as an example):

1. America whacked with flu bio-weapon.

Then I write a few sentences about who did it, why, when, where, and how.  Most of that info is just for me—the characters (and by extension the reader) won’t know everything at once.  One character will know something, another with have more or less info—and some of that information may be different or even wrong.

Some characters, (like Vice President Barron) know a LOT and get more info as the story unfolds.  Others, like Dr. Alston, or Chad (poor dude) know next to nothing and are thrust into the story and left to figure things out on their own, or get run over by the plot.

Once I have the background for what’s going on and why in a particular chapter,  I then start working on the actual story, pick a setting and run with it.  Before long I’ve got a chapter fleshed out (no dialogue, no transitions, just “X happened because Y did this.  Y moves to this town.  X follows.”).  With this (usually a dozen or so handwritten pages) I then sit in front of the computer and start creating.

Next week: How I use Scrivener to put words on the screen.

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