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Richard Scrimger: A Good Starting Point

Your book, your story, whatever, is going to be about one thing more than all the others. Your main character is going to want something. This is a really good starting point. What does my main character want? You may not know that right away, but you should have a pretty good sense it’s going to be about one thing, not six things. You can drift away from that one thing, that one main idea that your book is about, for a little bit if you have, you know, a funny joke to tell, or if you have a journey you want to take, to take a picture of something. You better come back to it pretty quick. Not that it is my favourite or the best book, but if you take a book like, let’s say, The Lord of the Rings, we got an idea–we got to throw that ring in the fire–even though if it’s going to take two-thousand pages to do it and everything that happens in the book serves to get the guy to throw the ring in the fire. The bad guys are chasing him to stop him from getting the ring into the fire. The people that he meets are helping him to throw the ring into the fire. The people that are trying to betray him are trying to get the ring so he doesn’t throw it in the fire and honestly, it’s a way just to say, to stay on message, if you like. Drift away for a bit, not for too long. Rein yourself back in. I know this only because every single one of my editors has said, "Richard, you’re drifting."

Richard Scrimger, 2010, from a talk given with Miriam Toews