For this stop, I was asked to tell you about my writing process, whether I work on an outline first or just write without one.
What at fun thing to talk about – here you go:
I guess you could best describe my writing process as episodic. What I mean by episodic is that I write what I feel like writing when I feel like writing it. For example, I’ve already written the ending of the sequel though I am still not entirely sure how my characters are going to get there. Tomorrow, I may write a scene that falls towards the beginning because I hear a good song on the radio that sparks an idea.
In short, I approach writing first by noticing when something inspires, touches or troubles me. I find the emotion in that situation and I turn it into a scene in the book. I borrow from my life and from the art that touches me.
For example, years ago I saw a Cold Case episode where two men kiss and the first kiss is quite a shock to one of them, yet he responds in kind to his friend.
Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UxuVt0sGDM. That scene stuck with me over the years – so much so that when I was working on Violence Begets…. the first kiss between Kevin and Rick had roots tied directly to that episode of Cold Case. As most writers will tell you – we draw from real life and what we know.
Second, I create a rough story arc in my head. I don’t really plot it out or write an outline. I simply identify 3 or 4 major touch points in the lives of the characters –then I float those ideas by the characters. I’ll put the character in that situation in my mind and see how he or she reacts. I let them play around and I watch to see if it feels natural or forced. If forced, I’m pushing my idea onto them. If natural, then it’s something we go with.
For example, as a small sneak peek into the sequel, at one point, I thought I’d have Rick have an affair. I was actually pretty sure this was going to be a major storyline for him and I kept throwing it out to him but he just wouldn’t have it. No matter how I presented the idea to him, he wouldn’t latch onto it. I even tried to write a “morning after” scene for him but eventually tossed it out because whenever I would try to flush out or write scenes around the affair, they wouldn’t work, I’d get writers block, or whatever. So basically, I have to sit back and watch, waiting for them to say, “okay, yeah – that’s the one we’re going with.”
So, I start by just writing from things that inspire me. Then I try to put those “episodes” into some sort of story arc. Finally, I have to fill in the pieces. I do this much the same way as the major plot points. By this time, I know the major life events that happen and I know many of the important steps along the way, but I have to bring them all together. So, I lay in bed at night, floating conversations, ideas and possible paths out to the characters to see which ones they latch onto. Once they are on board, then I sit down and flush out the details – at that point, it’s pretty easy.
Though, I have to say – sometimes we’ve all agreed on a direction and then they totally take me down a path I didn’t expect. The scene in Violence Begets… where Rick tops Kevin in the canyons, that was so not planned. Originally, they were just killing time, hanging out and getting to know each other. I guess Rick was pretty much ready to let me know he was in love with Kevin and Kevin was ready to be vulnerable with Rick. Never saw it coming.
At the end of the day, my writing process reminds me of a quote Michelangelo said (though, I am certainly not comparing myself to him by any stretch of the imagination).
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
For me, every blank page has a person’s story on it and it’s my task as the writer to transcribe it.
Thank you, Ms. Denys for your wonderful post, for sharing your writing process. Readers please check out Violence Begets below:
About the Book
Title: Violence Begets
Author: PT Denys
Genre: YA LGBT Fiction
After a tragic accident devastates his family, 16-year-old Rick St. James starts his junior year of high school without any friends in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. When he meets Kevin Vincent, he’s too distracted by the promise of new friends to see that Kevin has secrets of his own.
Having created an environment where he’s feared and admired by his classmates, Kevin finds pleasure in using his good looks and violence to control and manipulate those around him. Secretly, he cruises the gay club scene, turning tricks to earn money so he can party and get high.
As Rick’s dad becomes increasingly violent and abusive at home, the two form a surprising and volatile trust. In this battle of wills, their precarious friendship will either keep their lives from blowing up around them or possibly light the fuse that will cause the explosion.
PT never imagined she’d actually publish a book. But, the story of Violence Begets… haunted her for over 20 years, and the lives of Kevin and Rick had to be shared.
In addition to writing a sequel, she divides her time between family, work, attending theater and reading.
Above all else she loves being a mother to 2 amazing daughters (a teenager and a baby).
PT believes that no one deserves to be intentionally hurt (physically or emotionally) by another. She also believes that behind nearly every bully is a story.
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