Monday, April 2, 2018

Five Ways To Expand Your Story



Some of you may know that my current WIP, Burning Thorns, was originally a 20k novella that I later turned into a full novel. That was my first time ever doing anything like that. I’ve always written novels, but I’ve never turned a novella/short story into a novel. It was a new experience. But it went well. Surprisingly well. That little 20k novella is now a 95k novel and I’m currently editing the 3rd draft.


Crazy what little story ideas can become, amIright?


I probably should have done a post like this during the expansion days (that was like 2 years ago or something crazy). One would think I’d do a post on editing or something since that’s what’s been consuming like 87% of my time these days. Buuut logic has never been my style.


So today you’re getting a post on tips of how to expand your story!


I think this process came easy for me because I’m infamous for writing gargantuan books. (Like seriously, I need to read posts on shortening novels. #HALP) Not only that, but I already felt like Burning Thorns was a bigger story. There was so much I wanted to explore that I couldn’t in its novella state. It was for a contest and the word limit was 20k, so I didn’t have the freedom to chase those side-plots that kept enticing me. But basically the day the contest was over and I wasn’t on the winner’s list, I realized HEY. I CAN DO WHAT I WANT WITH THIS STORY. Thus I did. And I’m so glad.


ANYWAYS. (I’m so longwinded, guys. Proof I’m qualified to write this post. *grins*) I had an utter blast figuring out ways to expand my little novella into a much grander story, and I learned a lot along the way. So if any of you have stories you’d like to expand into something bigger, or just tend to write shorter novels and need some help upping those wordcounts (I wish I had that problem), this post is for you!


5 WAY TO EXPAND
YOUR STORY



ADD CHARACTERS


The second I made the decision to expand BT, I knew I should add at least one character. The cast was already small as it was, and I knew if I wanted to make it a full novel, there needed to be more players on the board. (Plus I’m just obsessed with characters, so…)



The world is set in a land where different fae creatures roam wild, but I didn’t get to really explore these fae people much in the novella. Now I could! I decided I needed at least one fae person to really bring alive my fae world. And thus Lark was born. And…well…these days I forget he wasn’t even a part of the novella because he’s kind of the driving force of THE WHOLE THING. (*shoots him accusatory glare*) It was easy expanding the story once he came into existence, because he plays such an important role and is very…active, shall we say.


I think adding characters is the best way to really up that wordcount. After all, each character has their own motives, goals, maybe a side-plot or two, personalities, backstories to explore, the list goes on and on. But, of course, don’t add character just for funsies. They have to have purpose. But hey, that is the fun part!


Like I said, Lark became a huge driving force and interwove himself so deeply into the plot and other characters’ lives. My simplistic plot suddenly became much more complex and fun once he arrived. That was the goal! It’s my favorite thing to connect the characters in some way. Give them backstories that interweave, make one of the characters move the plot forward in a good or bad way, add some entertaining character dynamics. All delightful things to brainstorm, right? I promise, once you thread someone new into your story, you’ll suddenly have a horde of expansion ideas!

 

GIVE YOUR SIDE CHARACTERS BIGGER GOALS


In the Burning Thorns novella, I had basically 2 main characters, a side character, and an antagonist you see like…once or twice. That was about it. By the end of the story you meet a few other people, but the wordcount was too limited to explore any of these side characters. I had one character who literally only had one line for the entire novella. But in the novel? That character has multiple points-of-view, entire chapters centered around them, and a side-plot.


I was ecstatic to have the freedom to explore the lives and full motives of all my side characters and antagonists. Again, each character needs to play an important role and continuously drive the plot forward, but the protagonist is not (and should not) be the only one doing this. If you’re looking to expand, explore each of your characters, figure out what their motives are, give them purpose and intriguing backstories. Make their goals even bigger and harder to achieve.


It’ll boost that wordcount like crazy, bring lots of interest to your story (come on, we all love learning about those side characters, don’t deny it!), and is just a lot of fun! (Character exploration is my favorite thing ever, if you can’t tell.)

 

RAISE THE STAKES


I loved doing this for BT. I’m…erm…not one to write very fluffy, simple fiction. So of course the novella wasn’t all fluff, but it wasn’t exactly dark and complex either. The story really only centered around my two protagonists and their problems.


Well, for the novel I expanded their problems to affect…the whole world, human and fae world alike. Because why ruin only two peoples’ lives when you can ruin the lives of ALLLLL the people??? #EvilAuthor


But really now, if your story is feeling like it needs a bit more complexity, raising the stakes works wonders. For example, with BT I made the fae world a much more dangerous and dark place than the sunshiny world it was in the novella. I also made the “beast’s curse” (this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which I think you all know because I TALK ABOUT IT WAY TOO MUCH) doesn’t just affect him. The entire fae world is cursed, which also puts the human world in danger.


Make the villain’s goals reach farther out, add worse dangers to your characters, throw in an extra antagonist or two. Maybe you’re writing an urban fantasy in a struggling city. Well, what if it’s not just that city that’s in ruins? What if there has been an apocalypse and the whole world is in partial ruins and struggling? Or perhaps you have an epic fantasy where the antagonist is looking to take away the protagonist's kingdom? Maybe the baddie is in league with other kingdoms as well and now the protagonist has to deal with three invasions instead of one. The possibilities are really endless here!


Higher stakes means more trouble for the characters which means lots more work for them which means bigger book!


Plus making more trouble for your character is always a good time.


 

ADD WORLD BUILDING


Everyone loves a story that really brings the setting to life and awakens our sense of wonder. Are there things to your world you can add? More culture and history? Cool creatures? A whole other race of people?


I’m a fantasy writer, so of course I’m dealing with made-up worlds that can always be expanded on. But even if you’re a contemporary or historical fiction writer, there’s still so much to explore. You can really dig into the history of your setting, add fun places for your characters to meet like a local pizza place (adding pizza in your story ups the quality 5000% #FACT), bring out the culture and way of living in that certain place. Really getting deep into the setting can add some words and make your story fully come to life.


(Except I’m not the best at original worldbuilding. Eheheh. But I did add a lot more to BT’s world, especially the fae world, which was so fun!)


Just don’t go completely overboard. We don’t want to accidentally turn our stories into history textbooks… Just like with the characters, each aspect of the world needs a purpose.

 

EXPAND CHARACTER ARCS


Whoops, I’m back to characters! (Notactuallysorry.)


This was another trick that really helped stretch BT from a little novella to a far wider, sweeping novel. I gave literally every. single. character. a much deeper arc. (I may be a bit obsessed with character arcs???)


The fun thing about this is it can tie in with raising the stakes. Got a utterly selfish jerk of a character who loses a loved one and, in turn, learns to value the people he does have in his life? What if throughout the story he loses multiple loved ones to really whip him into shape? (Ehehehe. I’m so nice to characters.)



Hey, you can even double arcs. First have them good, then turn toward bad, then work their way up to good again. (I kinda love doing this. Again #CharacterArcObsessed) For example, maybe you have a gal who is fairly trusting and open, but for the course of the story, she is constantly being betrayed by people she thought she could trust and becomes closed off. Then she meets someone who is constantly there for her and slowly pulls her back out of her shell and helps her learn to trust again. Ta-dah! A double arc.


Character arcs
(to me anyway) can totally make a story, and making them big and impactful is even better. So don’t shy away from really upping those arcs if you’re needing more story!



I hope this was sorta helpful? Maybe? (Probably not.) Basically all my advice includes ruining your characters’ lives even more annnd maybe some of the world ending on the side. FUN STUFF.


Oookay, really, the best advice I can give you for expanding your stories is HAVE FUN! Or, in Loki’s terms, DO WHAT YOU WANT. I added a character because I love characters and wanted another one, and I raised the stakes because the more complex and convoluted my plots are, the happier I am. But maybe you have no use for another character and are satisfied with the overall plot and just want to expand on character arcs. That’s great!


Write the type of book you love and add things that you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to throw in a ton of stuff you hate just for the sake of a bigger wordcount. The key to good storytelling is writing a story we’re in love with. After all, if you love your story, then your readers are sure to as well.


TALK WITH ME!

All right, guys! I need to know. Do you write short or long novels? (Surely I’m not the only monster-novel writer out there…) Have you ever expanded any of your stories? What methods did you use? I’d love to hear about it!


P.S. If any of you ever have any writing questions, please, please, please don’t hesitate to ask! I certainly don’t have the answers to everything. (Hahahahahaha! Not even close.) But I love talking writing and am always looking for blog post ideas and to provide content you’re interested in. So if you’ve got writing questions (or any types of bookish posts you’d like to see from me), shoot me a comment, email, Twitter or Instagram DM, GoodReads message, anything! (Seriously, there are so many ways to contact me. XD) I’d be thrilled!

40 comments:

  1. First again!
    Ahhh, characters. They're so helpful to the story AND fun to write! I just LOVE THEM SO MUCH!
    I can be a little mean to them, sadly, but THANK GOODNESS FOR THEM, I believe in happy endings. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES TO CHARACTERS!!! They're really WHY I write. I just love fictional characters so much. <333 But yeeeah, I'm so terrible to mine as well. But huzzah for happy endings! I'm partial to happy endings too. ^_^

      Delete
    2. YAY! Hurrah for the character muffins!!! <3 <3 ^-^ <3

      Delete
    3. All the precious character muffins! <3

      Delete
    4. The sweet little cupcakes. <3 <3 <3

      Delete
  2. Dis is SO AWESOME!!!!!! I'm trying to write book 2 of Pentegreens right now (eeee!) and working on making it long enough has been a challenge. The first book was 120k (yikes) so the second one needs to be AT LEAST that long, and I've really been trying to add supblots, add character arcs, add NEW characters....SO MUCH CONFLICT going into this book, it's great ;P This tips are SO HELPFUL, thank you so much!!!!! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EEP. THAT MAKES ME HAPPY TO HEAR! Because I seriously had nooo idea if this would be useful or not. XD

      BUT YOU'RE WRITING THE SECOND BOOK AND I'M SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!! My goodness, you are just blazing through these books. I do hope it will all go. You got this!

      Delete
  3. Love this! I'll have to keep this in mind for the future. I'm definitely one of those writers who writes reeeeeally short novels (for years, the longest thing I'd ever written was only around 73K? And even now if I have a novel break 60K I'm really surprised). Which is really awkward since I write mostly fantasy and fantasy books are famous for being epic and huge. o_O

    Oops.

    So a lot of my edits and revisions tend to be expanding things, where my first drafts are usually a playground for figuring out what kind of story and characters I'm working with anyway. They're just...wee first drafts. Hehe.

    I hope the Burning Thorns edits are coming along well! I'd love to hear your thoughts on writing novels vs. novellas, and if your process for writing a novella varied from your novel-writing process!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awwww, I'm so glad! ^_^

      Writing short novels is okay! Honestly, it seems like these days people prefer quick reads. Our attention spans are getting lower and lower with each generation. XD I wish I could write short books! Lol. But I think it's fun that your first drafts are the playgrounds, and then once you've figured out the story, you can later expand on it. That's a wonderful way to do it! I tend to put TOO MUCH information in my first drafts and have to go back and tighten it up afterwards. Lol.

      Thank you so much! Edits are going surprisingly well! And ooooh, what an interesting thought! Huh. I will have to ponder this. Thank you for the fun post idea! :D

      Delete
  4. I tend to be a rather short writer - I still haven't made over 30k words in my novels (then again, most of them aren't even completed so that throws off the entire scale)

    I'll definitely be keeping these tips in mind, Christine! Awesome post!

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I honestly wish I could write shorter novels! It never goes well. XD But I'm happy you enjoyed the post! Thanks, Catherine! ^_^

      Delete
  5. Yeah, I... obviously am one of those longwinded authors. I WISH I had this problem sometimes. XD But it's a very good post and it's intriguing to see what you did to expand your novella! I know it got super more full of depth and all the charactersss and things, so yay! :D Anyhoo, thanks for sharing, and I'm sure this will be useful for people with this problem! And if I ever write something that I need to expand, I will definitely reference this. XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saaame! I WISH I could write shorter things! Lol.

      Awwww, thanks! Glad you enjoyed reading the post anyway! ^_^

      Delete
  6. Now we just need somebody to write a post for us aaall about writing shorter books! XD

    ReplyDelete
  7. I needed this post! I am planning on expanding on some of my short stories. This was brillant and incredibly helpful! Also made me laugh a lot! XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? Aaaahhhh! That makes me happy! I had no clue if this would be helpful to anyone or not. Lol! But how fun you're going to expand some of your stories! I hope that goes well! :D

      Delete
  8. Yes, I'm one of those long winded novel writers. You're tip about character arcs got me thinking though that perhaps you could share your process for coming up with character arcs and more specifically for my purposes to figure out what my characters' arcs are! I wrote the first draft of my first novel (119k) and I still don't know what their arcs are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew I wasn't the only one. XD It's so HARD for me to keep things short! ACK.

      Oooh, a post about character arcs! I could probably do something like that! I may have to ponder it a bit, because my character arcs tend to just...happen. I don't really plan them out too much. BUT I'm sure I can come up with some thoughts about it, yes! :D I've got posts scheduled for all the rest of April, but maybe in May I can work out a character arc post? I'll see what I can do!

      Delete
  9. Hello! I finally got up the courage to write a comment. hehe.
    I write short, novella is definitely more my style. I think really the only stories I have finished are novellas.....
    So this post was helpful, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *GLOMPS* Hiiii! I'm so glad you commented. ^_^

      There is nothing wrong with writing shorter stories! I WISH I had the ability to do that more. But all my stories get so loooong. *collapses* But I am very glad to hear this post was helpful. I'm always thrilled to help out my fellow writers!

      Delete
  10. I write such loooong novels. Now, I'm working on one that might tally 160,000 words. Halp. :P But either way, this post. <3 Yes, make all de character suffer. Er... I mean, be lovely and nice. Have courage and be kind.

    Orrr...

    Do the thing with the double character arc.

    And I love side characters. Adding more characters is undoubtedly what helped my books get so much longer. (too much longer, may I add.)

    :P

    Snapper | silverphoenixwriter.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same, same! My novels after go way over 100k! I am glad I'm not alone. There's just so much to cover! Because yes, we must torture alllll the characters. Eheheheh. (The Cinderella quote though. XD)

      ME TOO! It sounds like we have very similar tastes and styles. I personally loooove long books with lots of characters, buuut not everyone shares that love. XD

      Delete
  11. This. Is. AWESOME. I have written a short story or two, but have never really felt compelled to expand them. This post, however, can work for expanding novellas as well as simply writing novels. Such great advice! I love all the character things!! You say everything so wonderfully---it all MAKES SENSE. Spicing up the characters and their stories, raising the stakes, expanding their goals---all of that adds so much to a story! Spot on, girl! *double thumbs up*

    My stories tend to be long-winded, but I really believe it's due to the fact I have such a hard time plotting and therefore the story just lags and drags on... heheh But I'm working on it! I LOVE long books as long as they keep my interest. I never enjoy the journey if I'm always wondering "when is it gonna END??" Ya know? (And that's sometimes what I feel like my own stories do...)

    Again, well done, m'dear! What a great post!! I love reading what you've cooked up for our writerly palates. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awwwww!!! That makes me happy that this post was helpful even to people who aren't expanding their stories. And I really make sense? OH MY. That is SUCH a relief to hear because I'm always so scared everything I say is just gibberish. XD EEP. Thanks, girl!

      I seriously doubt your plots drag! But I understand where you're coming from. The novels I pants tend to go on for aaaaages because I'm just discovering the story and working everything out. But hey, tightening and honing in on the plot is what editing is for! First drafts are MEANT for us to explore the story, however many words it takes. ^_^ But yes, if a book is good, then I don't mind one teeny tiny bit if it's long. I usually WANT books to go on for a while!

      What I've cooked up for your writerly palates? LOL. That is so cute! THANK YOU, SARAH! You're a gem! <3

      Delete
    2. I know what you mean! I feel that way all the time, like I'm rambling more nonsense than anything worthwhile. But no way! I LOVE ALL THE THINGS you share!!

      Indeed! Spot on, m'dear! I couldn't have said it better myself. :]

      Heehee ^ - ^ Thought you might like that (kinda liked it myself) ;D My pleasure, Lauri! <3

      Delete
  12. Dude, I needed this post YEARS ago! I had to convert my first book (which started off at 18k) into an actual full-length novel. Ugh. What a process. BUT! It is coming along now and has entered its forth draft stage! I actually used a lot of these pointers to make it longer, namely the character arc and raised stakes. And I'll likely use a lot more of them (plus some other stuff) to continue making it longer as it's not quite as long as I'd like.

    Loved this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? It's just like me to be super late. ;D But really, that is so cool you turned your first story into a full-length novel! And you're on the fourth draft now? Aaaahhhh! SARAH. THAT IS SO AWESOME! What wonderful dedication! I do hope it'll continue to go well! YOU GOT THIS! *waves pompoms*

      Thanks so much! :D

      Delete
  13. Thanks for the tips! I only have two fictional WIPs right now, and I think organizing and expanding are going to be two of my biggest challenges. When I was younger, I wrote several short stories, but I could never make them long enough. I want to stick it out for these two, though. :) Your tips were helpful! On the one hand, I feel like I'd easily get overwhelmed if I start expanding too much from the original ideas, but on the other hand, I need to in at least a couple ways in order to get the stories to the lengths I want, right?

    Thanks again! Hope you're doing well, Christine! :) <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so welcome! I am thrilled that they were helpful! :D

      That is so awesome you want to stick with these WIPs and make them bigger. You can totally do this! Trust me, once the ideas start coming, they come with full-force. It's going to turn out great, I just know it! *gives you motivational cookies*

      I'm doing wonderfully. I hope you are as well! Thanks so much, Olivia. Happy writing! ^_^

      Delete
  14. These are great tips Christine!! :D I usually go for the 'add another character option'. Although...it usually ends up as me creating too many characters for me to keep track of and then I have to cut a bunch of them... XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww! I'm glad to hear it! ^_^

      CHARACTERSSS! That's my favorite option, if it isn't obvious. XD It's just too fun adding character. But man, I feel ya on having too many! I have one series that has sooooo many characters, it's kind of absurd. I fear whenever I get to rewriting it, some of them are going to have to be chopped, as hard as that'll be!

      Delete
  15. Christine, you just became my new favourite person! I always write short novels and this is the thing that will SAVE me during Camp NaNo where I'm writing a novel. THANK YOU!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *HAPPY SQUEAL* Really? Aaaahhhh! I'm thrilled my little post was helpful! :D I do hope Camp NaNo goes absolutely wonderfully for you. Go, Claire, goooo! *waves pompoms*

      Delete
  16. This is inspiring for me since I'm in dire need to expand my latest novel which I still have yet to start on ... I've been doing some research. That's it. XD Thank you!

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awwww! That's makes me happy this was inspiring. I feel you on that! Starting a story and getting it all together is the hardest part for me. I do hope the process goes well for you. You got this! *fistpump*

      Delete
  17. "The entire fae world is cursed, which also puts the human world in danger."

    OOOOOH. Now I'm looking forward to reading this even more than I was before. *whispers* Keep me in mind if you need a beta-reader.

    All of this advice is brilliant! I've used a couple of these strategies myself. I've never really tried to write something longer than 50-60K words, and I can't say I've ever had a problem with them getting too long. Usually, around the 45K-word mark, I find myself yelling at the story, "COME ON, just a few thousand words more, you can do it!!"

    The Beast of Talesend was a little too short, obviously, but it was kind of a "pilot" episode so I don't have any regrets about that. I did use the adding-characters strategy to lengthen both The Tomb of the Sea Witch (hence the Mythfits) and Horseman (hence Julio the dragon and Meg the gorgon). I also used expanded character arcs in those cases, as well, since I love adding intricate backstories for even my walk-on characters. XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AWK. Thank you!!! And that is SO nice of you to offer! I'll probably be putting out a beta call after Realm Makers. Sometime in August maybe? So if you're still up for it then, let me know. I'm so honored you'd offer!

      So happy you liked it! ^_^
      I honestly WISH I had your skills. You're the master at putting together a full, epic story without ever overwhelming your readers. I do love longer books, but I think the style of B&B fits perfectly with multiple smaller stories. You're doing great!

      I adore The Beast of Talesend and obviously would have LOVED more, but, at the same time, it felt right. It DID have that "pilot" feel. A fun, bite-sized story to introduce us to the characters and world before thrusting us into it headfirst. Again I say, it all works great for the style of B&B! BUT I AM SO GLAD YOU ADDED THE MYTHFITS. Lol. It's funny, the characters that weren't originally going to be there or the unplanned ones or whatever tend to be the best ones! Or that's definitely how it has been for me. Gotta love those unexpected ones. XD And intricate backstories give me LIFE! I basically do the same. KEEP IT UP. I love the complex backstories!

      Delete
    2. You’re very welcome; I’m really excited to read it! And thank you so much for your kind words on my writing! :) I’m glad to hear it, because the complex backstories show no signs of slowing down, LOL. I just recently wove in another significant literary character as somebody’s relative on the spur of the moment. XD I feel like I’m going to be revisiting Beast a lot in future stories, so it’s almost like I’m expanding it without actually going back and writing an “expanded version” (which nobody wanted me to do).

      Delete
    3. I love it! Gimme ALL the complicated backstories and characters! :D I think it's so fun how you're expanding on the first book without having to rewrite it. In my opinion, all the best book series expand as they go from book to book. You're doing great!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...