Last week I
warned told you that I would take you with me as I work through what seemed like the drier exercise of learning how to take my idea and turn it into a book. I’m working with a book called Story Engineering. It breaks down the six elements that are needed to turn story into a compelling novel. I like this book because it doesn’t give you a formula, it simply challenges you to make sure that you have enriched these elements as much as possible.
The first element is to make sure your concept is strong. That requires knowing the difference between an idea, a concept and a premise. It turns out that having an idea to write about a story strong willed woman set in Italy is not quite enough. I wrote a treatment for the novel a long time ago, and I have been tweaking it over the past couple of months. Let me give you a peek at what I have so far:
“This yet to be named novel is the story of a woman’s struggle living in a time and place where gossip and superstition ruled. The novel is set in Southern Italy in the early 20th century through World War I and the rise of Mussolini to the brink of World War II. The novel takes us through the life of Giulia Cassatto, who we meet in 1911 when she is 15 and her mother has just died.”
I’m going to stop there. The treatment goes on to describe the major plot points. It gives me a map for writing the full novel, but there are a lot of blanks that need to be filled in. I still really like the treatment, which is good news, but the concept needs a bit more work. [Insert weepy emoticon right here.]
Of course, I got the idea for this novel from my mother. When you’ve heard family stories your entire life, you sometimes accept the oddities and don’t ask the really obvious questions.
Mom would often talk, with much affection, about her Zia Antonia, her mother’s sister. Mom would always just casually mention that Ciccio (which is a short form for Francesco) was Zia Antonia’s foster son. I had always just accepted this until one day it finally struck me as really odd that this man, who was clearly her favourite child, was always referred to as a foster son. So I asked the question “Why do you say foster son?” I probably used a slightly snotty tone and was ready to preach to my mom that adopted children are just referred to as children. Well, the answer wiped the snottiness right out of me and I knew that I had to do something with this story.
But I can’t tell you the story now, because what I was given that day was the end of my novel.
While it is a remarkable story, it needs more meat to cover 200 – 400 pages. Not to mention subplots and themes … but I’m getting ahead of myself and will save that panic for a later post. For now, I’ll go back to build out my concept, and hopefully not fall into the writer’s trap of never actually being done.