Questions that Come up in Social Media Writing Groups: How Do I Write a Book?

The short answer is there’s no one way to write a book. The variance of style and plot depend on genre and then there are those who subvert those plots intentionally. That’s what happens when you have a bunch of creative thinkers making up stories.

I’m not going to get into the structure of a novel. There are hundreds of books out there that will tell you what to write at what point. I’m going to tell you the basics of story.

Create a relatable protagonist, someone with hopes and dreams, family and friends (or future friends if you’re writing a story about the friendless gaining friends).

This person starts out with a wrong perception about something, usually ideological thematically, but in relation to something personal to the character.

For example: Let’s say Julie is a teenager who has been deeply hurt in the past by someone, so she’s a loner. Everything about Julie, the way she dresses, her hair, her lifestyle, and attitude, has to say, “I’m not friendly.”

The plot is a series of events that drives the character to make choices, each choice will have a consequence until the protagonist has an aha moment and see things differently. You’ll begin with a problem that challenges Julie’s belief she doesn’t need friends. She’ll keep her unfriendly ways, and that will create more problems for Julie.

If you haven’t caught on, in this case, Julie is her own antagonist. But, to make things interesting, come up with Worse Julie. That will be your antagonist. Not only will Worse Julie make life difficult for Julie, but everyone else around Julie. Give this person redeeming qualities and make them not a loser, so that Julie can’t seem immediately why they’re so terrible.

Along the way, give Julie helpers along the way. Julie sees their value in the moment, so lets these helpers in. She’s happier and doesn’t know why. Things go more smoothly with these helpers.

Suddenly Julie is surrounded by people, people who can hurt her. She freaks out. She pushes everyone away and faces the challenge and the Worse Julie alone.

At this point in the plot, the protagonist must fail Big Time. In some plot books, it’s got to be a physical or metaphorical death of some sorts. For less drama, it just has to be a devastating blow to Julie because she pushed people away instead of being vulnerable and allowing her helpers to be her friends.

Voila! Aha moment. Julie sees that she needs friends and has had them all along.

In the end, the protagonist’s perspective has changed. They are different inside and out.

This is an oversimplification, but I hope it clicks where more technical explanations of plot structure have failed.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Published by TJ Deschamps

Tammy loves to build worlds with words, exploring themes the effect of diaspora on the generations born elsewhere than their ancestors with the backdrop of tech or magic and dragons (sometimes both). These stories are inspired by her own family's immigrant experience. She's queer and many of her characters fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum (though that is not the focus of her work). She's married to an engineer who dances. Together they are raising three precocious teens in the Seattle suburbs. Two of her children are neurodiverse. Her experiences have taught her much about the world, its beauties and its injustices. All of this comes through in her fiction with a healthy dose of absurd humor.

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