When I work with clients and we’ve gone through the process of getting to know their people (characters) then exploring their people’s histories and settings, we begin to create a path for them to make their way through the writing of the book. This process differs depending on whether you’re writing fiction, memoir, or non-fiction.
For fiction and memoir, I recommend writing two important scenes first: the opening scene of the book and the inciting incident. Some writers consider these scenes one in the same. Others do not. I’m of the latter belief.
- The opening scene, obviously, is the first scene of the book. It establishes setting and begins the important steps to character development and, oftentimes, not just the protagonist. This scene sets the tone for the entire book and gives a glimpse at who we’re meeting, the world they live in, why we ought to cheer for them, and what they might be seeking to change—or at least what their struggle might be.
- The inciting incident is the scene that causes the character’s world to spin off its axis and forces her to embark on a journey from which she will return a changed person. Where this scene lands can vary, but as a way of creating mileposts in the writing, I envision this scene near the end of Chapter 2 or 3—or about 45 pages in. (Notice where the inciting incident occurs in movies: about 20 minutes in, give or take a few.) My thinking is this: Having an opening scene and an inciting incident gives us room to fill in what the reader will need to know so she can be fully on board to embark on the journey with us. If we need to shorten the time or space in between, we can always do that.
For non-fiction of the how-to self-help type, you want to understand your Ideal Reader’s Big Question and their Why. This is much like the fiction/memoir protagonist’s big desire. You want to understand what your reader wants and why so you can best present your method, process, or program in a way that speaks to her heart and makes her want to buy your book.
- I recommend beginning with questions. It is through questions that we can come to a deeper understanding of what our Ideal Reader most wants and needs. Can I lose weight and still enjoy food I love? Can I create more order in my life? Am I an empath? Can I rebuild my life after my divorce? How can our family best deal with my father’s dementia? How can I help my introverted child thrive in life? Why do I continue to have unhealthy relationships?
- Next, comes understand how you can help and why you want to help. As the creator of your method, process, or program, you likely already know how you can help clients, customers, and future readers, and after understanding your Ideal Reader’s question and their Why, you will be able to more precisely describe this to her. Also, sharing why you want to help will create a connection with her, which will build trust, which will make her want to buy your book and your services.
No matter the genre of your book, creating a path for your people is essential in gaining clarity for yourself, as the writer.
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Give these tips a try and leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how it went for you.
Sending you mad writing mojo…