Monday, September 23, 2013

How does your story grow? Guest Post by J.Drew Brumbaugh

Gladiator's Pen welcomes guest author J. Drew Brumbaugh to the Ludis. He is the author of  the thrillers War Party and Shepherds and here to talk about his writing process. So pour a cuppa and enjoy the post. Don't forget to leave some comment love!

How Does Your Story Grow? 
by J. Drew Brumbaugh

As a guest here, I suppose I should introduce myself.  I am J Drew Brumbaugh.  The J being for James and so most people call me Jim.  I write suspense novels of various types.  I have two novels available in both print and ebook formats, a third one on the way, and a collection of three short stories that is available only as an ebook.  More info is available at my website at www.jdrewbrumbaugh.com.

For me, novels take a long time to write.  I envy those who can sit down and churn out a finished novel almost from the first draft.  I don’t know how they do it.  My novels grow and change as they are written.  I start with a basic plot in mind and at least an idea for a few of the main characters.  But it’s sketchy at best, more like an overriding theme.  Still, I have to start somewhere so I write some and then write some more and somehow the story keeps going, though not necessarily exactly as I’d planned.  Characters try to change things.  They’ll say I’m not that kind of person, I’m smarter than that.  Or I just wouldn’t do that.  And of course I listen because who knows more about a character than the character them self? 

And that isn’t all.  Plot changes and additions crop up at the oddest times and places.  Often as the novel writing proceeds a new idea pops into my head, something I hadn’t thought of before that adds to the story, or complicates things, or changes the level of challenges for the main characters.  Again, the only thing to do is fix it, add it or change it so that the idea is incorporated into the story.

I’m not sure how these things happen.  I wish I could see everything down to the last detail up front and then maybe I could finish a novel in one or two drafts instead of ten.  I am convinced that somewhere in the deep recesses of the unconscious mind, the creative ideas keep percolating even as the book is unfolding.  I’ve started novels without being able to see the ending.  I begin with an idea for the initial challenge, the original conflict that starts the story in motion, but I don’t know how it will be resolved, or whether the main character(s) will even succeed.  I trust that somehow, some way, the conclusion will materialize as I go along.  I don’t know how to tell you what happens along the way it just happens.   

My novel Shepherds is a perfect example.  Over about three years the story grew, had chapters added, new Pacific Ocean, there would be storms.  So, a storm became an important part of the novel.  Then I thought of rustlers, fishermen who would steal the factory tuna since they couldn’t find wild fish.  Another problem found space in the novel.  How about killer whales?  They would eat tuna and dolphins too.  So, killer whales.  Add to that the personal issues that haunt individual characters, like Olga’s angst over possibly meeting her mother, whom she’s never seen having spent her life in an orphanage for mutated “shepherds.” 
conflicts for the characters to deal with, dangers that I hadn’t thought of when I began writing.  The original premise was simple.  As the oceans were depleted of wild fish, the larger seafood companies to avoid bankruptcy would figure out how to “farm” tuna.  I used tuna because they get big and individual fish can be worth a lot of money.  How would they farm these fish?  Floating pens like salmon didn’t seem to be a good approach for tuna who like to swim, all the time.  So, the seafood giants created genetically modified people who could use trained “herd dolphins” to manage the tuna in the open ocean.  This meant that vast tracts of the ocean would be claimed for “ranches” and suddenly there were conflicts between the “shepherds” and independent fisherman who were trying to eek out a living on what wild fish remained.  As the story grew, various conflicts came to mind and were added.  What about a storm?  Certainly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there would be storms.  So, a storm became an important part of the novel.  Then I thought of rustlers, fishermen who would steal the factory tuna since they couldn’t find wild fish.  Another problem found space in the novel.  How about killer whales?  They would eat tuna and dolphins too.  So, killer whales.  Add to that the personal issues that haunt individual characters, like Olga’s angst over possibly meeting her mother, whom she’s never seen having spent her life in an orphanage for mutated “shepherds.”


And even with all that I realized I needed a nastier antagonist.  Who?  Ah, some of the fishermen work for drug cartels making and shipping drugs.  Some of the shepherds got in their way and were killed.  Enter Toivo, an independent fisherman who has dolphin friends who help him find wild tuna.  He too gets embroiled in a fight for survival with the drug cartel and ends up meeting Olga, a shepherd.  How could a couple of nearly defenseless people defeat such a powerful group of ruthless killers?  I didn’t know.  It seemed hopeless, which is the point of a good suspense novel.  And yet, as I neared the end of the book the answer was there.  Like magic.  Where did it come from?  I don’t know.  Maybe the writer’s muse?  So I write fervently hoping the muse does not desert me.  How about you?

Find J. Drew Brumbaugh's books on Amazon
Like him on Facebook 


1 comment:

Riley Hill said...

I've only read one of Jim's books, but after this article I want to read more! I find it fascinating the way his plotting elements sometimes develop out of thin air (or deep waters).