In Part 1 I talked about percolating a novel plot, coming up with the ‘bubbles’, the ideas that form the skeleton of your plot. To write an engaging novel, you have to dig far deeper. That’s what fermenting helps you do.
What do you think of when you see the word FERMENT? Picture a vat filled with young wine; it needs time to soak in all the subtle flavors that will make it distinct and delicious. A novel needs time―and more importantly, deep thought―to gather in all the richness that will make it a novel worth reading.
One thing I’ve learned as a writer is this: thinking is underrated. We’re so programmed to be active and busy, that we forget that pausing every now and then actually allows us to process more information. To the human brain, writing a novel is a huge ‘information dump’; we need that pause to acknowledge our ideas, then sift through all of them to find the precious gems that will become our plot, characters, setting, and ultimately a bestselling novel (we hope).
During the fermentation stage, I’ll think more about the characters, one character and one question at a time until I have a solid answer for each. Who is she? What are her strengths and weaknesses? What is her goal? What suspenseful challenges will she face? What relationships are found or lost? Who is she up against and why? How does she proceed in the investigation or journey or quest? How does she finally reach her goal? What scene most comes to mind when it’s time for the final chapter or epilogue?
Often at the fermentation stage I’ve already started writing the actual novel. At different times throughout, I’ll pause and have what appears to be a break. But really I’m fermenting my novel plot. Someone watching me might think I’ve fallen asleep with my eyes open and head upright. You may even see the occasional wisp of smoke from my ears, or I might talk out loud or nod. I’m sure I must look weird when I do this at my favorite Starbucks, but each time I ferment my plot, the dialogue, action and characters grow stronger and deeper.
The next time you decide to write a novel, think about percolating and fermenting your plot. When I clicked on the word “percolate” and went to the synonym check in MS Word, the following words came up: seep into, infiltrate, permeate, penetrate, get into, infect, drip, filter. I think they perfectly describe what we need to do to create an engaging plot.
So percolate an idea. Let it seep into your mind and infiltrate your thoughts. As these ideas permeate your daily routine, they’ll penetrate further into your mind so you won’t forget them. They’ll get into your blood, infect you, until you can’t wait to sit down at the computer. The key then is to allow the thoughts to drip, one at a time, from your mind to the keyboard, so that in the end you become a filter and the perfect novel plot will finally emerge.
©2008 Cheryl Kaye Tardif
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif is the author of 3 Canadian suspense novels (Whale Song (published by award-winning Kunati Books), The River and Divine Intervention).
Visit her website: http://www.cherylktardif.com./