Everybody has their own unique way of writing, right? You might be wondering how I write. Well I'll tell ya!
First off, to write a story, you need inspiration. Without it, you can get very lost very easily. 99% of my inspiration comes from dreams and daydreams. Sometimes, for example, I imagine myself being in a field, surrounded by flowers. Then something really exciting happens. So exciting, in fact, that I decide to turn it into a story. When I do that, I make sure I substitute out all the personal stuff, such as my name, age, looks, sound, and personality. Substituting out the personality is the hardest thing to do, however. The personality of the character is the most important part. It decides how certain people act and react around the character, and if certain events can still occur. If your character was headstrong in your dream, but not in the final product, then not many people are going to find that specific quality unattractive about your character, because it won't be there. If you turn your headstrong character into a shy and timid character, then she/he will definitely not want to stand up against the school bully, and instead, will be against the very idea. Things like that can drastically change your story's elements. When reading my stories, you might find that, sometimes, the main characters (who are not always female, like I am) might have one trait that they all share. And that's fine. But I don't put the same cast of characters into every story. See the next section for more details on that.
Cast of Originality
Like I previously stated, I don't have the same characters in every story. BUT! They might have somewhat of the same personalities.
In many stories and works of fiction, there is almost always the perverted, lighthearted, comic relief character. If I were to ever categorize myself as a "type" of fictional character, that would be me. So, as you can imagine, some stories of mine might have the main protagonist be silly and lighthearted. But that isn't always the case. One of my up-and-coming stories features a sadistic type of being who likes to play with other peoples' minds, and another main character in a different story is an observer. They're not like that because I can see myself being sadistic or a person following everybody's movements, but because they were "featured" in a dream I had. There's more information about that below, under the category "Dreams."
As I was saying about the "cast" of characters I have. That "cast" doesn't appear in every single story I write. More like, I have about five original characters who will only ever star in one story (the first, original story that I wrote). I use those characters for a reference because I know their personality in and out and they are the most developed characters I have. For example, when I create a smart scientist/doctor-like character, I tend to name him "Ben" until I give him his actual name. Just like the main character (if it is female) is "Jay" (1) until I create her name. These characters are simply used as a reference. Ben's character is actually that of a scientist working for an organization. Jay is the self proclaimed leader of a group that belongs to the same organization as Ben. I have other names that I use for the same "type" of characters. See below for more information on types of characters.
Each character's personality is unique; it's what makes them them. But, you have to admit, you've seen the same exact personality more than once. Like I mentioned earlier, most of the time, you'll find a perverted type of character. Other times, mostly in comedic shows, there'll be an idiot. (Examples for this include Lowell in Wings, Dauber in Coach, Woody in Cheers, and Patrick in Spongebob Squarepants.) That doesn't mean the people who created that character aren't original; it's just that that's a popular personality! I'll almost always have some sort of shy, quiet girl (usually named "Leanne"); I'll also have the "Jay" character's best friend and partner in crime (called Scott); and then the abusive female (called Kira). Those are just my character "molds," if you will. (More on molds below.) I use them as a basis for every character I create in each of my stories, and then I switch them around. Before, I mentioned Jay becoming a sadistic bastard-type of character; how did I get from lighthearted to evil? Well, the dream I had, the inspiration I had, for this story featured a wicked character ruling over a young girl's body (Jay and Leanne, respectively). When I was creating an outline for the story, they didn't have official names yet (they do now), so I just referred to them as Jay and Leanne, since that was what I knew them as. Sometimes I still do that, since it hasn't been long enough for me to remember their names, although I'm starting to get the hang of their official names.
I'll be honest; I actually did think about making all my stories' characters have the same names. But I quickly disposed of that thought for a couple of reasons. One, what would that say about me? That I'm lazy? (Although I may already be lazy.) And two, what if I ever wanted to be a published author? I'd have to create all new stories with all new plots and all new characters! That'd take a lot of time. And becoming a published author isn't a far off or wild dream; I'm actually thinking of going for it. But I'm not in college yet, so I'm not gonna worry myself about that stuff.
Creating molds for your characters isn't necessary, but it's what I do. Like I said, I have five different developed characters with very different developed personalities. When I create a new character, I take this mold and shape it into something else. Sometimes the end product is almost completely different from what I started with! As an example, Scott, my partner in crime character, changed into an obsessive teacher's pet in another story. And helpful scientist Ben went to an apathetic, calculating, second in command. I wouldn't say they're complete opposites from what they were, but they're hardly recognizable from their original molds. And their names have also been picked out, so I don't call them Ben or Scott anymore. That's called "developing your molds." It's an essential part of characterization and originality.
One last thing about molds: naming them. Like I have previously mentioned, I have five well developed molds, all with names. You don't have to name your molds unless they are actual characters, like mine are. Sometimes, when I have a dream, instead of a new, original character, a character that already exists is in it. I can't create an original story with someone else's property without it being labeled fanfiction. So when that happens, I tend to just name that mold after that person, and, like all other molds, I'll change the name and all other existing factors when I get to it. But you really should be careful about your molds, and changing their names and personalities. I say both names and personalities because just slapping on a new, totally irrelevant name to a pre-existing body look and personality is still copyright. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Naming Your Children
I don't mean actual children children, but your characters. After you get them out of their molds and they have their own unique personality, they need a name. Especially if you name your molds; you can't call them all by the same name. One, it'll get confusing, and two, it's just unprofessional. So you have to pick out a name!
When picking out a name, however, you can't just say, "Here you go, you'll be Jessica Raine Cruz." How does that name fit your character?
In one of my stories, the main setting is in Japan, so I settled with Japanese names. But not just any Japanese name; the names had to do specifically with their personalities. (I'm not a native Japanese speaker, I don't personally know anyone who is. Kill me, but I used Google Translate, then checked with another reference if the names and translations I had were correct. I can't guarantee the names and meanings will be accurate, although the meanings aren't actually stated, so many people might not catch on.) The Jay mold who turned sadistic and evil was named "Imori Hamon," (Western style; first name, last name) which, when I researched, it came up to be newt and anathema, respectively. (Anathema is something or someone that one vehemently dislikes, as stated in the online dictionary.) These names are important to the character, as she can transform into a newt, and not many people like her. For every other character in this story, their first name is the animal they transform into (as it is a normal ability for people in their universe to have) and their surname is some trait that describes them.
When naming your "children," don't just make the name fit their personality or looks or position, but make it original. Names like Raine, Izzy, Arthur, Jack, Cat, Kate, Elizabeth, and so on are overused and popular names. I'm not saying that those names can't be pulled off if you write your story well enough; I'm just trying to say that I'll never use those names because they'll never be common in the universes I create when writing stories.
Another way I come up with names is typing. Constantly I make mistakes. I forget to space two words out, I misspell a word, the mistakes I make go on and on. I have spellcheck. Spellcheck gives me "ideas" of what I might mean since it can't read my mind, so it doesn't know what I mean. I check the words it gives me, and I find an interesting one (insert: spammy). I like that word so much that I decide to put it on my ever growing list of names that I haven't yet used. People say they can't stand spellcheck (or auto-correct; I have both), but to me, it's practically a lifesaver.
Like I said in under the Cast of Originality and Inspiration sections, dreams play an important role in creating the plot of my stories. I was taking a nap while listening to music a while back where I got my first original idea (from where the original molds come from). All other stories that I am creating have been inspired or started off as dreams; I just turned them into outlines shortly after the dream so I would be able to remember them, and actually start writing them when I had the chance.
I create outlines for my stories, as I have stated several times now. Sometimes I don't, but when it's a dream and I can remember the dream for the most part, I do create some sort of draft.
Last night, I had a dream. It was a very clever dream about a young boy being spiritually aware after coming into contact with a book. I couldn't remember a lot of the details, but what I did remember, I made sure I wrote down when I woke up, and now there's a semi-completed outline of it with a title and everything!
Sometimes, if I'm going to create an outline, I don't get to it right away. I didn't make an outline for a dream I had weeks ago until just today, when I was in the writing mood. And I was able to recall the main events that happened (although I couldn't recall certain smaller details).
Outlines are just there for the author to look back on when they're going to write the actual story. Sometimes they aren't even complete. For the dream and outline I just mentioned, I only had the basis of the stories (it's plural because I decided I would end the story right after the climax and create a sequel to it; a cliffhanger, if you will) already planned out. I was halfway through the second one where I said to myself, "What happens now?" I still can't say, for even I don't know. I just figured that I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
Another thing about creating outlines from dreams is that the outline is always shorter than the dream. I finished the outline for that same story in no time, but I remember the dream being very long. The reason for that is not just because I can't recall all the small details, but I didn't write any dialogue. The only dialogue I included into my outline was very important dialogue; what had to be said in order for the story to move along. When I start to write that story, I'll come up with the rest of the filler dialogue.
Also, that reasonably short outline I wrote for the same story is supposed to be spread out into one and a half stories; you think I can do that just by completing the thoughts in the draft? Heck no! I have to make sure I add a ton of details for it to be a decent length story and a half.
There are also several disadvantages when creating a rough draft for your dream.
The first is that sometimes, your dream doesn't start in the beginning. Using the same example as before, I know the dream started on a train ride. The next thing I can remember is the main character being offered a ride. I have no actual "evidence" as to what happened on that train. But I did, however, come up with something. I imagined that, on that train ride, the main female character bumped into the two other main characters. After a while of conversing, they all got off the train at the same stop, and realized they were going the same way, so the two new characters offered her a ride. That part wasn't included in my dream; I just used my imagination to come up with something. Sometimes, you, as an author, are going to have to use your imagination; you can't have gaping plot holes in your story!
The second drawback is, like I said before, not having an ending. Although at times, it can be more stressful than it is undesirable. If you absolutely need to end your story, this can be very stressful for you. But if you haven't started your story, and you're not worried about it, then it is more likely to be just an inconvenience to you; you'll just get there when you get there. And that's understandable; the main idea of having an outline in the first place isn't to have all of the story written right before your eyes. It's to help you move along when writing the final product. Straying from the outline is sometimes necessary when you add in what was originally a new, minor detail and it turns out to actually be a major plot point. Still, it's nothing to worry about. If you're even an author at all, you should be able to get back to your outline if you feel the need to.
What Exactly Goes Into an Outline?
Every outline I create is different from the others. Not because it has different information, but it's in a different layout. But basically, I always have the characters, setting, and main idea, also called "plot." Some of my outlines don't always have all of the above; they're just the typed version of my dream. And that's fine also. I know the setting and characters by heart, I don't need to write them down. Although I probably should...
When I list the characters in an outline, I don't always have names. Sometimes I have several ideas that I'm thinking of using, and sometimes I don't have anything. But I do make sure that I include which mold it takes after (if any), and with or without the mold, its position, or its general personality traits. I used the following form and several variants of the same form as well.
I used that form for every character in the same story as my magnificent bastard character, Imori Hamon. Other times, I just put a brief but informative summary on the character and its attributes. But be sure to include name (if you have one or several picked out and you can't choose), nickname (if you can't think of a name right away) (2), age, gender, looks, and personality. Those are the most important things when creating a character outline. I'll include some links at the bottom where you can find fully detailed forms to fill out for your character (I've filled out several of those, too).
Another part of my outline describes the setting. Setting is the time and place your story takes place. You don't have to have an actual year or actual name for the place unless you are going to refer to that time or place in your story.
I just usually have a quick description of what can be found in the surroundings. In one of my outlines, all I put was that it took place in a big city. That was all. Then I described who lived in that city. That is all that's in that specific outline. No more, no less.
I remember in one outline, time was a major component. The story constantly switched from past to present to future, and the only warning that was given was the label at the top of each chapter. I don't mean to sound like I actually wrote the chapters; I didn't. But I did write an outline explaining that it would be like that.
The label that I put in the outline looked like Sunday, January 22, 2012 [05:11:43 PM], of course using today as an example.
When describing the plot, be as descriptive as you want. For the story where my molds come from, the only info I have written down is the first chapter. (It was a very long and detailed dream that will end up as a very long and detailed first chapter.) And even then, the outline is hardly legible. For Jay, I typed "j," for Emperor, I put "e." All those types of things. Throughout the outline, however, I mention some things that aren't already known to the audience. They'll figure it out as the story goes along, but I added a "memo" part, smack dab in the middle of the story, for my personal usage. I want to be able to look back at it when I need to. Also, the reason I abbreviated so many things was because it was a long dream and I didn't want to forget it (which I tend to do in short periods of time), so I didn't use full sentences or even correct grammar. I guess I should go and clean that up now, huh?
I can't think of anything else that I should include. I covered all the basics; inspiration, characters, setting, plot, dreams, and outlines. I might add a second chapter later as a FAQ section, seeing as how I don't have any questions to answer now. With that in mind, send me any and all questions that you have! I'll look over your character forms (forms are located below), I'll look at any outlines, I can constructively criticize your story; anything! Along with the FAQ, I might add some new sections if I can think of any; this chapter right here took me over five hours to type! I'm so tired too, since I did it all in one day with hardly any breaks!
Character Trait Chart
Character Form (I know it's Quizilla, but this guy had a really good guide.)
Mary Sue Tests
Mary Sue Litmus Test
The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test
Creating Fictional Characters (You might want to check out all the other advice this guy has; I know I do!)
Creative Writing Help (This is the main page for the previously listed website. Check it out!)
Writing Guides and Mary Sue Tests (Check out this author on Quizilla; she really helped me! She has guides on fanfiction and original fiction stories and quizzes, and her own Mary Sue tests!)
(1) "Jay" isn't my name. I don't use Sox as the name, because J is the first letter of my first name, so I have the tendency to sometimes call myself that. (It gets to the point where I embarrass myself in front of my friends by calling myself Jay and they have no idea why I did that; I refer to myself as Jay only in stories.)
(2) In one of my more recent stories, the main male character is called by a nickname the main female character came up with because she can't remember names that well (everyone else she knows she calls by their nickname). It even stuck to the point where the narrator calls him by his nickname.