5 Ways to Explore Your Story


I am still in the early stages of feeling my way through the new SHARK story. I am doing some exploratory writing. These are writings that I don’t expect to make it into the book, I am just feeling my way around the character, the setting and the voice.

1st v. 3rd

One exploration is point of view, trying to find the best way to tell this story. For example, I might send the main character to a setting to do something simple, just get a cup of coffee, and write it in first and third.


While I’m at it, I also like to explore the attitude of the character. So, I might repeat the same scene with different attitudes. I try to avoid a peaceful, happy attitude–since fiction is all about conflict–and instead, concentrate on variety of unhappy attitudes. Boredom, anger, anxious, scared, determined, etc.

That gives me a feel for how the character moves, talks and feels when things are happening.


It’s also a good place to look around at the possible settings and explore where things could happen, and how the setting might affect the conflict of the story. I am looking for built in obstacles that make the conflict sharper; or, I look for a contrast, perhaps, a light-filled place for a dark event to happen. If I can send my character to these places in exploratory writing, it works well.

Exploring Nantucket Island


Another idea is to have a character write a letter about an event. This might give you insight into the event, the character’s feelings, the relationship between the letter writer and letter receiver and more. It’s a first-person variation, if you will.


Sometimes, it helps to write from your character’s perspective and examine something in six different ways, or cube it.

  • Describe. Using your character’s voice, describe the subject. Does your character use flowery language, or is s/he spare and direct?
  • Compare. Use a simile or metaphor to compare the subject to something else. This might tell you how skilled the character is in language and in comparisons.
  • Associate. What comes to your character’s mind when s/he thinks of this subject? This might delve into some of the character’s back story, or reveal other things about how they think.
  • Analyze. Analyze the parts of the subject, as if it were an automobile engine. Does your character know the jargon of the subject, or does s/he describe in generically? Is s/he methodical in the analysis, or haphazard?
  • Apply. Explain how the subject is used, or what its purpose is. This is an exploration of a character’s understanding and perhaps, how they physically would approach the subject.
  • Argue. Why is your character for or against your subject? Here, we might see how the character argues, logically or with an appeal to emotion. This might uncover passions for you to explore in your story.

Exploring your character and story may seem a waste of time, but it pays off in the end with richer and deeper characterizations and emotion.

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