You’re staring at a blank page. It haunts you. There is an idea somewhere in there but for some reason, the words simply will not come. If you’ve never been here before, allow me to help. A few tips on how to start writing a book begins now.

Writing a book is not like building a house. There are no codes.

Every writer comes with their own bag of tricks for fleshing out and developing a story.  While I would venture to say that while there is some natural overlap, no two bags are going to be the same.

How To Start Writing A Book Through Character

One of the places I like to begin development is through character. Whether or not you are writing a piece of commercial fiction or a screenplay, your personal memoir, or a business book, a character is the driving force behind your manuscript.

Building a story is almost always about someone. Character is a dynamic entity. Interesting personalities are rarely vague. There are critical elements that enhance a one-dimensional figure into a dynamic character that can sustain an entire book.

My first strategy is to ask, what do we know about this person? It’s amazing what we take for granted in describing a person. Usually, though, we know a basic defining characteristic of that lead character.

He’s a Dad but he’s also a science teacher.

She’s a cheerleader but she’s found herself trapped between two lovers.

They are a US Navy Seal but he has a family back home.

Dad and science teacher does not seed a dynamic element. Sure, a cheerleader led love triangle sounds enticing, but it is also a cliche. The US Navy Seal with a family at home gives us something to go on. It’s still not enough though.

There are other shades we need to cast on those characters and those come through brainstorming.

To get there, next, I go the other direction… what are some of the things we do not know about this person? Is our main character just a Dad and science teacher as we assumed? Or does he go to sleep each night pondering what might have been?

Does your cheerleader harbor a dark, paranormal secret?

A US Navy Seal at the end of his tour is an entirely different character than one just earning his stripes. Take that a step further, you can portray him as a soldier deciding whether to re-enlist for another tour. Now he is caught between obligations and loves: family and country.

The differences between the first character description and the second are enormous. That difference is the one between memorable and forgettable.

That Dad who pines for what he missed is Walter White from Breaking BadOur cheerleader with a secret is none other than Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. That Navy Seal? Chris Kyle from American Sniper.

If you’ve seen even one of these stories, the driving characters don’t need further elaboration. The question of what we know and don’t know is only a basic development tool. You can see though, how answering even the basic question opens doors wide for crafting memorable characters and building a story. 

Effective writing is about evolving that character concept beyond assumption.