Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Birth of a Novel by Louise M. Gouge

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Jen. You posed an interesting question I’d like to answer: How do I develop a story? This is a great topic that writers often discuss amongst themselves, with every writer having her/his own methods and opinions. Do you start with plot, or do you start with characters? Or maybe you start with a setting? Or a theme? I have used all of these as starting points, but one thing is certain: every story must have a plot.

The plot, the sequence of events (including at least one major conflict), can be inspired by just about anything: newspapers or television news, a family legend, a real life humorous or tragic or complex situation, even a movie or television program that I’d like to see happen differently. One of my soon-to-be e-published books began with a real life rebellion in a foreign country. Certain things happened historically, so parts of the plot were pretty well laid out for me. Beginning a book with a plot means finding a conflict and moving on to the subsequent human reactions to it. That brings us to characters.

Without characters, there is no story. The conflict must happen to or within a being of some sort. I begin most of my books with one or more characters. When I was writing Ahab’s Legacy Trilogy, Ahab’s Bride, Hannah Rose, and Son of Perdition, I developed my protagonists based on Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. My characters grew spiritually and emotionally as a result of their responses to this mythical anti-hero. Some of my other books resulted from a minor character clamoring for his or her own story. The hero in The Captain’s Lady is a minor character in the previous book, Love Thine Enemy. Jamie Templeton kept telling me what a great hero he would make, so I gave in and wrote his story, which he insisted should take place in England. That brings us to setting.

Stories have to take place sometime, somewhere, and within some social environment (the social assumptions and customs within any given culture). When I discovered that Florida, my home state, was a British colony during the Revolutionary War, I wanted to set a story here. I had my time and place, but what about the social environment? As it turns out, the people who inhabited this colony at that time were Americans loyal to the British Crown and Englishmen who were in the business of colonizing. How did they interact? What were their dreams and aspirations? What would be my conflict? The more I researched the East Florida Colony, the more my characters and plot came to life, and the results were Love Thine Enemy and At the Captain’s Command. Naturally, because they were set in the American Revolution, each book had a wartime theme, with characters reacting to events over which they had no control. That brings us to theme, and while it may seem odd, I think some of the best stories have war themes.

A book’s theme is the overall statement the author wants to make about her characters or a time in history or some social issue. My husband, David, is a decorated Viet Nam war veteran, and I take pride in his service to our country. However, men and women returning from war often suffer many difficulties as they try to adjust to “normal” life. Like many Viet Nam veterans, David didn’t talk much about his experiences, but when I began to write my post-Civil War series, he opened up. His knowledge and experience undergirded my theme of God’s healing touch on men shattered by war as I wrote Then Came Faith and Then Came Hope. Because it touched my own life so deeply, I’m very proud of that series.

Another book of mine that began with setting is The Gentleman Takes a Bride in the anthology The Wedding Season, with Deborah Hale. This time, my editor asked me to write a Regency romance, which in one word gave me the time, place, and social environment. My theme was an interrupted wedding. Coming up with the perfect plot and characters was a delightful challenge. Here’s what I ended up with: Surely Elizabeth Moberly was born to be a nobleman's bride. She can't possibly be attracted to the untitled stranger who interrupts her cousin's wedding. Yet Elizabeth finds herself drawn to Philip Lindsey's tender heart and strong faith. And if Philip has his way, he'll convince Elizabeth the only title she needs is Mrs. Lindsey, beloved wife.

If you love Regency novels OR would like a chance to form an attachment to them, please give The Wedding Season a try. They’re in Walmart right now and also available at and If you would like to know more about my books, please check my website at

The world is full of stories. Why don’t you write one? Whether you begin with plot, character, setting, or theme, or maybe something entirely different, dig deep and you’ll find a whole new world opening up inside of you.

Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction, calling her stories “threads of grace woven through time.” In addition to numerous other awards, Louise is the recipient of the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. Married to David Gouge for forty-six years, Louise is a mother of four and grandmother of six children. In addition to writing, she teaches English and humanities at Valencia Community College in Kissimmee , Florida. To learn more about Louise, visit her website at

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of The Wedding Season, just leave a comment on this post. PLEASE NOTE: USA and Canadian residents only for this one. I’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday, June 22nd. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!


Emma said...

The Wedding Season sound wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.Thanks for the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.

karenk said...

a wonderful posting...thanks for the chance to read this fabulous novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

misskallie2000 said...

I know I will enjoy reading The Wedding Season. I love romance stories and look forward to reading this one.
Thanks for the opportunity to enter giveaway.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com