I know what you’re thinking, “OK Mr. Elliott, if you’re going to try and tell us that riding a motorcycle and writing a story have anything in common, you might be trying a bit too hard!”
Well … I am. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s much in common between the shifting of gears, counter-steering, and twisting the throttle on a bike and typing or writing out a manuscript. Motorcycles make nice props, and motorcyclists make good characters, but that’s not where I am going either.
Instead I would like to look at a system for safe riding (as taught by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation), and how it can help with plot. The system is called S.I.P.D.E.
S.I.P.D.E. stands for Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, and Execute.
Scan: Think about your character. If you write out character sheets or develop portfolios for them, get them out and look them over. Get to know your characters. Look to their horizons, both the ones they want, as well as the ones that will occur.
Identify: Make notes of the key occurrences, reactions, and feelings each character will experience. Not just the ones that are central to your story. Nor should you limit yourself to only those that will occur in your book. You should be able to pinpoint those things that have had an effect on your character, whether they will be written in the manuscript or not.
Predict: Know how past experience and present disappointment will shape your characters as well as their actions. For example, when someone’s home is burglarized, they usually become angry. That’s the given. But some people loose a sense of connection to the place violated, while others suddenly feel vulnerable in all aspects of their lives.
Execute: Write it down! All of it, even the parts you don’t use. It’s OK to cut a lot of the background and ancillary “stuff” out, but writing it in the first place helps to develop the character more fully. It works the same in real life. When we describe something that happened to us, we don’t go into all the reasons we felt or reacted in a certain way, but all that “stuff” still had a bearing on the way we did.
William K Elliott
William K Elliott
William is a member of that ever-popular group known as “Aspiring Writers,” also known as “unemployed.” He has been dabbling in writing for some twenty or thirty years, and has finally decided to “get down to business.” With inspiration from Steven King’s “On Writing,” and a lot of support from his wife, Kristy, he has been working on his first novel.