Thread by Thread

As some of you know, the main character in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series is Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider. So I’m always on the lookout for spider-related things that I can share online with readers. I saw this spider’s web in a tree a couple of weeks ago. It was the prettiest web that I had seen in a long time, so I snapped a photo. I didn’t see the spider who built it, just the web.

Spider web by Jennifer Estep

The more I look at the photo, the more I think about how writers are just like spiders. No matter what genre we write, we all start out with a single thread—a character, a plot point, a setting, a problem, etc.—that speaks to us and captures our imaginations. Then, we start building around that first thread, adding more and more threads, and more and more details to our story, like dialogue, descriptions, and dilemmas.

I write in first-person, so for me, that first thread is often my heroine—who she is, what she wants, how her magic works, etc. It’s her voice that usually influences all the other threads of my story, everything from where the book is set to the personalities of the secondary characters to the problems that my heroine faces in the course of the story. It can be a slow process, but thinking about my heroine first is the one that usually seems to work best for me.

It all begins with one thread, and just like with a spider’s web, that one idea that starts with my heroine can expand and spiral out in a dozen different directions, taking me and the story places that I never expected it to. But all the threads are connected, and they all lead back to my heroine.

Hopefully, the pattern that the threads create—the final story—is as intricate and as beautiful as this spider’s web.

What about you guys? Writers, how do you go about building the threads of your books and stories? Readers, what story threads pull you into a book?

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10 Responses to Thread by Thread

  1. Amy says:

    Great and true article! When I start my writing I usually begin with an idea, then I build on the characters, moving onto the conflict, then the world, then the details of the story. It isn’t always in that order, but the idea is as you suggest: To weave an interesting, exciting web of events and circumstances that will be memorable and beautiful.

    As a reader, two things get my attention: interesting characters in unique situations. Sometimes they don’t even have to be together. I can’t count how many times I’ve bought a book just because I liked the sound of the concept, or how many times I’ve continued a series only because I’m addicted to one or more of the characters.

    Thanks for the post, Jennifer! 🙂
    Amy`s last blog was …Weekly Recap

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    That picture is gorgeous! At first, I thought it was a painting.

    It feels that every time my process is different, but my books are very much character driven. In Christmas at Angel Lake, I was finally able to use the Puss-in-Boots plot idea I had for a long time. But as I wrote it, the story changed into a different direction as the characters changed.

    When I’m reading books, it’s always character for me, but I need a good plot, too. Great characters make me care about them; a good plot keeps me turning the pages.

  3. Amy — Thanks! I’ve done the same thing — picked up a book because I thought the story idea sounded interesting or continued with a series because I liked one of the characters.

    Edie — Thanks! I think it’s finding that right mix of characters and plot that really makes a book work for me as a writer and reader.
    Jennifer Estep`s last blog was …Today’s post …

  4. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    Love the analogy to the spiderweb! I’m not sure I have a single process – wish I did then I could refine it. lol.

    I write plot driven stories heavy in characterization – really light on the description. Finding a balance is the trick!
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …Vamping with the vamps…and me!

  5. Love that analogy, too, Jennifer! And oh my gosh! That photo is amazing. You’ve got some mad photography skills. (Says the girl who takes more blurry pictures than really should be possible.) I blame the camera. 😉
    Robin Bielman`s last blog was …All Entangled Eve Halloween Hop!

  6. Love the picture and the analogy. I begin with a thread as well and weave from there.
    Karin* Tabke aka Harlow!`s last blog was …Blood Swords in France

  7. Dale — Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. Finding a balance between plot and characters is always important.

    Robin — Thanks! I think I just got lucky with the photo and that it turned out okay. I’ve taken my share of blurry photos too. LOL.

    Karin — Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. Hope you are doing well.
    Jennifer Estep`s last blog was …Today’s post …

  8. What a great picture, Jennifer! I wholeheartedly agree with your thread theory 🙂
    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …Release Day: Banquet of Lies

  9. Misty Evans says:

    Jennifer, amazing photograph. My sons have always loved spiders and rescue them at home and at school. When we lived in Florida, we had an orb weaver (like this one who hung above our front entrance. We named her Alice.

    I agree that stories are like spider webs…many threads to spin out and hook back around to form a cohesive plot. My urban fantasies are character-driven, my rom suspense are more plot-driven. Either way, I love spinning this kind of web. As a reader, I like strong characters and solid plotlines that draw me into a new world. Something different and entertaining. Your Spider series definitely does the job!

  10. Michelle — Thanks! I appreciate that.

    Misty — Thanks! Glad you liked the photo, and I appreciate all the nice words about my series. Wow, that is a big spider — maybe a little too big for my peace of mind. LOL.
    Jennifer Estep`s last blog was …Today’s post …

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