Narrative: My Answer to the ‘King Club’

Today I thought I’d take a step back from what I’m writing and talk a bit about how I write.

Over the past years, I’ve had a number of conversations with people regarding the best approach for writing a narrative. One thing is clear in my observation: no two writers work in the same way, and there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ way to write a plot. At least, that’s what I think; others tend to differ. No sooner had I started writing than I encountered what I’ll call the ‘King Club’ – people who love to throw out facts about the techniques of famous authors, especially their favourite, the one and only Stephen King. They’re often the same people who’ll tell you to always show not tell, and to never have an exact ending in mind – because if it works for Stephen King, it’ll work for you.

Well, it doesn’t work for me. In fact, I’ve found that I need to have a crystal clear structure mapped out for my story, or else I get stuck. It happened to me when I wrote The Vanishing Villa – I hadn’t figured out a key moment in the story, and I just couldn’t crack it. Since that experience, I’ve always worked to have a clear flow in my narrative and a fairly specific ending in mind. Here’s the process that works for me:

My stories usually stories start out with a twist in mind. I think of something that would really surprise me as a reader, and then I work backwards from there. That approach has spawned all of my Inspector Ambrose stories so far, and The Clockwork Dungeon features (in my mind) some of my best ideas in terms of the mystery itself – though it will be quite different from the first three Inspector Ambrose novellas.

As I move from planning to drafting, I try to allow room for the story to develop naturally. If something feels forced, I’ll think about how what I’m writing at the moment would naturally affect the plot. This happened today, when I realised how I could do the big reveal in my story: even though I had the what figured out, I needed a decent how. As I was typing, the solution became obvious, and now I’m looking forward to writing the finale of this story, since the how has become self-evident.

So that’s my process in a nutshell. If you’re currently in the process of writing a story, my advice would be to not stress too much. Practice what does and doesn’t work for you, and remember not to pay much attention to the King Club. They may have some good points, but in the end, you need to find a style that you can own and enjoy.

As for me, it’s back to writing – I’m about a quarter of the way through my first draft, and looking forward to seeing how the details come together as I follow my plan.


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