Beth Hautala

Children's Author


Making Up Nouns (People, Places, and Things)

One of my favorite parts of writing, is the development of my nouns—my People, Places, and Things. These are the bones of a story. Every single story ever written or told contains these elements. Without them, it falls apart.

Humpty Dumpty? —An Egg-Man, A Wall, The King's men, and a whole bunch of Broken Pieces.

Cinderella? —A Mis-Treated Daughter, a Kingdom, three Wicked Step-Sisters, and a Shoe.

The Bible? —A King in disguise, Destitute Humanity, and the most amazing and unexpected Rescue ever.

See? Nouns. In every story.

I almost alway begin plotting a story with my People. —"Characters" officially, but to me they are actually people. They have to be, because if they are not real to me, then how can they possibly be real to a reader?

• Characters must be believable, which includes likable and unlikeable traits. —Perfections and imperfections. —Failings and successes. —Brilliance and stupidity. —Depravation and redemption. 

• Good characters will be in conflict with themselves, with each other, and with the world around them.

Tonight I'm working on World Building and character development for a new book project. This is the fun part wherein I am allowed to creatively vomit every possible idea onto paper and, like a board full of Scrabble pieces, begin to sort them out into legible concepts—readable words. 

• To create a world, you have to start with a place that can be imagined or experienced with all five senses—maybe more. But anything less than five leaves the reader wandering around in the dark. He or she is left abandoned, unable to see what the writer has seen, know what the writer has known, and in a sense, make the place home—at least for the duration of the story.

Lastly, comes all the Things. The space fillers—secondary characters, ideas, buildings that play a part in the story, food the characters eat. . . The knife that slays the dragon. The chalice that revives the princess. The carriage that is actually a pumpkin.

I love things. They are always the most surprising parts of a story because they have a way of appearing—almost magically—exactly when and where you need them.

Sometimes they tie a story together. —A song sung and alluded to throughout the story.

Sometimes they are a place to begin and a place to end. —A coffin.

Sometimes they are simply a handful of shining ideas that weave a story into something more than the writer imagined it would be, lending mystery, beauty, color, and depth. —A yellow hat, Tuesday, an old bookshop, a chipped pink cup, and a lost letter. 

Things are wonderful. They always manage to catch me off guard, as do, in fact, all of my Nouns, almost all of the time, whenever I am writing fiction.