Building a Book


Yesterday I was walking my dog, thinking about the book I’m planning to write, and it dawned on me that creating a story is a lot like building a house. First thing a writer/contractor needs is to decide what kind of story/house it will be. Flash Fiction/Tiny house? Saga/mansion? Something in between? Then, of course, there’s the style. Will the story/house be a contemporary? Futuristic? Gothic?

As I walk, I find myself considering the characters I’ll need for this book. In my mind I consider possibilities that would work and discard those that I don’t feel would fit. Reminds me of when my husband was building houses. Wandering through Menards, Lowe’s, or Home Depot, he’d do the same thing. Yes for this; no for that.

In my case I need to consider my characters’ ages, physical characteristics, what they do for a living, and what they like or dislike. Are they married or single, do they have children, and if so, how many? What are the children’s ages, etc.? What are these characters names? Any particular reason why they have these names? What does a reader need to know about their families?

All that is similar to building a house. A contractor needs to figure out what to buy, style, color, how many, and so on.

Right now I’m trying to decide if this story will be told in first person pov or third? And if I decide on third, will it be a singular third person or multiple third person povs? I’ve even seen some writers switch from first to third pov depending on the character? Would I want to do that?

A lot of stories I’m reading nowadays are being told in the present tense. I don’t think I want to use present tense, yet it might work if I used part past and part present.

I know where this story is going to take place (that’s like a builder knowing where the house will be located), but I don’t know what time of the year. I’m thinking of having part of the story take place in the past, so that’s another decision I need to make. How far in the past?

I also haven’t decided what the time span will be for this story. One day? A week? Weeks or…?

All of these decisions I’m making are the building materials I need for my story. All writers, either consciously or subconsciously gather these ideas. Some writers start a story before they have everything. They trust they’ll know what they need when the time comes. Other writers carefully gather everything (sometimes in a notebook or computer file) before they start on page one. I know there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but I’m pretty sure I have many more walks with my dog before I’m ready to start writing.

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12 Responses to Building a Book

  1. Maris,

    A wonderful analogy! I get ideas when I go for walks as well.

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    Wonderful analogy. 🙂 I have my frame up and the pieces bought, now I just have to wait for some better weather (More time) to finish this puppy off!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Oh, I hadn’t thought of introducing the idea of weather. Good point, Melissa. I guess weather for the writer would be any of the interruptions that keep us from getting back to the story.

  3. Diane Burton says:

    I hate being a “ditto” but great analogy. Since we just built a house, I can relate. I keep saying I’m a pantser, but plotting is so necessary-if I don’t want a lopsided house. Good luck with your plans.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I’m a bit of both, Diane, pantser and plotter, but I definitely have to know who my characters are, where they’re located, and what kind of story I’m writing before I sit myself down to be a pantser.

  4. Bonnie Alkema says:

    Enjoyed your blog and identified with the building idea, having just remodeled the condo. Love how your dog walks through it from beginning to end.

  5. In using your comparison – I build mansions. And the way I write, I guess you’d say I build houses by running to Lowe’s or wherever and say “I think I’ll need that and that and that. I’ll use what I need and then return the rest because I have no idea exactly how I will style my home or what materials I will use. I hardly ever plot and plan. Foundation? A love for what I write makes for a good foundation, which is always necessary. I do love your comparison – but I guess I’m obviously not a good planner. However, in the end I get the job done. Maris, you always post such great blogs – they make me think.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Roseanne, I think you already have a blueprint in mind. You write Jake’s story and that leads you to the materials you need. I think, sometime long ago, you pulled together the materials for your stories. Now you just build and build (and you do a great job).

  6. Sandy Parks says:

    I’ve never thought of comparing creating a book with building a house but the analogy works perfectly. A great thought to start the day as I am working on a new book. Thanks.