Whatever you are writing, in the beginning it is all a mystery. Everything is unknown. It is up to you to play detective and pull together all of the facts before you write your story.
Question your suspects (characters). Make notes about their appearance and ask them about themselves, their background, their likes and dislikes. Really get to know them. Hairstyles, eye color, style of clothing can all be important information to help your readers to really see your characters. What motivates them? How do they interact with others? Are they rich or poor? Are they from a large family or an only child? These things will affect the way your characters behave. Even if the details don't appear in your story you need to know them before you start to write. Make sure each character is real with both good traits and bad traits like actual people. The details will make them believable to you and in turn to your readers. Record this information on index cards so that you can refer back to it as you write.
Get to know the scene of the crime, or the location of your story. Draw a map so that you can keep the details uniform throughout your tale. You don't want buildings to change their location as you write. If the school starts out next to the city park it shouldn't find itself on the other side of town and miles away later in the story. I wrote a story about a treasure hunt once and when I drew the map later I found out it wouldn't work as I had described it.
What about your story? Does it have conflict? Is there a struggle? Will the reader care about the struggle and be pulling for the MC to find a solution? Is there enough trial and failure before the success? Is there an inner struggle for your MC? Does the child solve the problem or does someone do it for him?
As you write your story don't forget to flesh it out with sensory details. Help your reader to see the setting in vivid color. Help her to smell the ocean and hear the sea gulls. Make sure she can feel the warm sand oozing up between her toes and burning the soles of her feet.
Use your notes to double check your details as you write and make sure you haven't performed some weird, unexplainable changes in either characters or places as your story progressed.
Gather all the facts like a good detective and then write the bestseller of your dreams.
(c)2005 Sharon A. Soffe