The Novella’s Progress – Mind Mapping the Story

So, I’ve been puddling around exploring my characters and now I know them pretty well. It’s been like discovering new friends in the least likely of places.

My main character and the narrator of the story is Claude, an older man with an unusual occupation, a difficult past and a heart of gold.

Due to the untimely death of his favourite client, Isla, he becomes unintentionally mixed up in a murder investigation. Isla is a retired school teacher – middle-class, overweight and conventional – with a hidden secret. Over the three years of their ‘business relationship’, she has developed a fetish for tattoos. Every few weeks another appears. Yet no-one would know, for they are completely concealed beneath her clothing.

Is there a link between her obsession and her demise? Claude is determined to find out. In the process he discovers a means of redemption for himself.

The details of the story are still developing, but I have a clear idea of how it will play out. In the mix is a morsel of mystery, a ration of romance, a bit of the bizarre, and a splash of suspense.

At the half-way mark (15,000 words) I need to work out how to weave together the loose threads that are wafting about in the wind. It’s time to put all that luscious free-wheeling writing to one side and engage the left-side of my brain. To do this I will revert to pen and paper (the paper being sticky-notes that I can move about on the table).

But before I do that, I intend to use a free-form technique of identifying all the strands. It’s called mind mapping. It’s a technique I learnt about ten years ago and have used in a variety of situations. This is how you do it.

Start with a largish piece of paper and a set of coloured pens. In the centre of the page, draw a picture of the central thought or outcome you want to achieve. Starting with the centre, draw branches outwards, using a different colour for each. On each branch write an idea or action that will help you get to the centre. Then flesh out the twigs of each branch. Once you start, the associations will begin to flow. As you think of a new branch, simply grab a new colour and add it on until you have a complete picture of the entire project. Don’t slave over it or make it perfect. It’s meant to be a brainstorming technique to get all your thoughts out quickly.

For some examples, here is a link to an Australian mind mapping website

When it’s all out there like a giant colourful cobweb, you can begin ordering those branches into scenes. This will give structure to your piece of writing and leave you confident that you have covered off everything.


About Debbie Terranova

Debbie Terranova is an Australian author of contemporary and historical fiction. 'The Scarlet Key' published in 2016 is the second Seth VerBeek mystery. The crime-busting reporter is back with a new cast of unforgettable characters and a new puzzle to solve. It's about live, love, death, and tattoos, with a touch of the mystical. 'Baby Farm', her debut novel, is a cozy crime mystery about forced adoptions of the 1970s, and a surrogacy and baby trafficking racket. It is the first of the Seth VerBeek series. Debbie Terranova is a prizewinning author of short stories: 'Mowbray Brothers' about growing up in East Brisbane in the 1920s; and 'Mischief' about reinventing yourself and in the process falling in love ... with an adorable but mischievous cat.
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4 Responses to The Novella’s Progress – Mind Mapping the Story

  1. Writing Jobs says:

    That was an excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing it. I
    really enjoyed reading it very much. I’ll be sure to pass it along to others.

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  2. dterranova says:

    Thanks for your comment. Hope it helps.

  3. Sarah Bell says:

    Thanks for sharing the mind mapping – will definitely be trying that one.
    Can’t wait to read your novella when it’s finished – sounds great.

  4. dterranova says:

    Thanks Sarah. I’ve taken a photo of the mind map I’ve done for this project … just have to figure out how to put it onto the blog.

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