I’m now about half way through Jake and the Knight Who wasn’t there – so the detailed synopsis method seems to be working quite well at the moment. I feel I am pretty much sticking to the story as I envisioned it, with some deviations and deepenings of character and setting of course, but the basic plot is hanging together well. I think by having a detailed plan to refer to, even with a short story, it enables you to make sure you build the character and the setting in the right way, so that the reader believes the resolution of the story. So in my planning of this story, I have made sure to make a note of how Jake should react to certain things, or where he should reflect on something and what he thinks as well, as later on he’s going to act in a certain way that the reader will have to take on trust.
In the past I think I’ve perhaps not let my characters reflect too much – perhaps I have tried to show in actions and dialogue a bit too much and only build character in this way, but this time I’m taking a bit more time to build up the importance of the narrative voice, but still balancing that with action and dialogue to keep the story exciting and to build conflict.
Hopefully will have a first draft done before Christmas!
My short story seems to be going fairly well at the moment. I’m working on it by going through iterations of more and more detailed outlines. Basically I started with a general outline of what the story was about, then went away to think about the characters and setting – giving things names and brief descriptions etc. I then wrote a more detailed outline of what would happen in what order during the story.
Having finished that process, which only took an hour or two I am now going back to fill in details about what POV is used in different sections, where there will be more detailed description of something, or a character’s reflections on something and a brief summary of what those are. I am nearly at the end of that process, which took about another hour and a half. I reckon another hour will finish this detailed outline or synopsis, and then I can actually write the story out properly by fleshing out the the outline, putting meat on the bones.
The great think thing is that I already have a good idea of the mood of the story now having thought through what happens in the story, so I am really just going to be deepening that when I write out the whole story.
So far, fingers crossed, this has been a fairly efficient way to write a short story. The main thing it has prevented is too many tangents and digressions that change the plan and course of the story, and reduce the tightness of theme and narrative you need for a short piece.
Working on my current short story “Jake and the Knight Who Wasn’t There” I came across the issue of how one of my characters would learn about magic. The story is set in alternative version of the 14th century, so I can hardly have a Hogwarts or Unseen University equivalent. I suppose I could make my world much more alternative and include this, but really I want magic to be something that’s fairly secretive and under the radar.
How I Fudged It
In the case of my short-story I decided that the character would know how to perform certain magic because they had been visited by the ghost of a loved one.
From Books or Old Wives Tales?
But in other cases where would the knowledge come from? Well those who dabbled in trying to do magic were often clerics, monks, friars, priests. So this meant they had more access to books. They would probably search for books such as those by Albertus Magnus or those said to be written by Solomon. Alternatively there was what might describe as folk magic, or what would become seen as witchcraft, practised by uneducated men and women. This might have fed into newer books on magic perhaps, although they tend to look to antiquity as their source.
A Medieval Magical Underground?
But how were new methods tried out? Were medieval magicians just basing their practices on books, or did they have other sources. Was there an underground network of communication between different practitioners of the dark arts? I suspect we will never know, but it’s fun to speculate.
As well as my novel, I have also been working on a new short story idea involving one of the novel’s characters. It’s working title is the snappy “Jake and the Knight Who Wasn’t There”!
Currently I am trying to take a fairly rapid approach to developing the ideas and the narrative. I already have a rough structure and plot for the story and I am now fleshing out the characters who take part and will then get some more detail on the plot progression – there are a number of combats that take place, which I need to detail before I get started, and will probably finish off with a few ideas on the locations before I get started with writing.