The next step is to draft biographies for every character, major or minor, who will appear in the manuscript. The bio contains everything there is to know about the character from name to physical appearance (hair color to birthmarks to surgical scars) to personality type to college major to family history and more.
The second step is the outline as a Word file. I write it as a summary of the story then expand and revise it as I write the manuscript. My first novel, Price of Justice, had ten such revisions while my current project, Cornered, has five.
Research is a very valuable part of the writing journey and, as such, is an ongoing process through-out the writing of the manuscript. For every scene setting, Google Maps (satellite views and street views) is an invaluable tool to show me how the actual neighborhood appears. I use locales that are very familiar to me and easily accessible to garner a better ‘feel’ for the area. In Price of Justice, one scene happened near Lake Travis. I drove out there (a few miles from my home) and walked around the area. In Cornered, in addition to satellite views, I’ve driven to the city, shot pictures of the different locales, interviewed detectives and the police chief, toured facilities and acquired a better mental grasp of the community where the story unfolds (much changed since I worked there as a detective).
In fact, one of the scenes in Cornered arose from an actual murder investigation I worked in that city as the lead detective.
An important consideration in selecting locations for scenes from Google Maps is to create fictitious business names and their locations as well as character names/descriptions to avoid disparaging real-life places and people (unless you obtain written consent). For example, in Cornered, a group of thugs run a fictitious car repair garage on a certain street. That garage location was set at a place on that street where any readers familiar with the city wouldn’t confuse the location with an actual garage operated by legitimate business persons.
All of my writing is done in an office set up for the exclusive purpose of writing fiction. Besides the desktop computer and printer, three very important books sit a mere foot away - my dictionary, Roget’s International Thesaurus (10th Edition) and The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.
By Alan Brenham