Welcome to the second post on Campaign your novel Craft post. For the month of January I am going to be focusing on writing your novel as if you were a Dungeon Master (DM) for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game. If you haven’t read the first post, you can read it Here. Please note that I am not experienced with D&D and I am reading through D&D books and comparing them writing a novel.

Last week I mention a story about my first game of D&D, and my buddy Chris being the DM for the first time. I went rogue. So did his girl friend, though she got back to the quest quicker then I did. Boy did he make me pay for it. Why talk about this again? Simple, any DM will tell you no matter how much you plan some player are going to do things you don’t want them to when you really don’t want them to.

How does this tie into writing? Easy. Just like players, good characters go rogue. Fully round characters never do exactly what you plan out. If they do, then one of three things happen: 1. You outline you know your characters and keep them in mind when coming up with beats. 2. You are forcing your characters to do what want them to do. 3. You plot the plot points, when you start writing the character are at the wheel and they get to the points how they would they get there.

Fully develop characters will fight you when you try to make them do what you want instead of what they would do, you get characters who are not being true to themselves and something feels off.

“I know from my experience that most plot first novelists don’t think it’s necessary to create realistic characters.
I mean, so long as the chick is next to the truck when it blows up (in order to make the hero made so he’ll go off and do the next plot point) we’re golden.”

“Characters are like pieces of furniture to these writers. George Lucas talks about his characters in Star Wars as pieces on a chess set. He moved them around until the story was what he wanted.”
Jeff Gerke, Plot vs. Character: A Balance Approach to Writing Great Fiction.

This is not good approach to characters, because they are doing what you want and not what they would do. When you do this, like I said already, you get characters not being true to themselves or we don’t learn enough about the characters to know this. Good characters test their boundaries. Just like in D&D, a player goes north when they need to go south. How do you get the character to go where you want, put roadblocks in their way, some characters need them to get to where they need to be.

Next time you’re working out your story try letting your characters do their own thing. Sure have some events that you want to happen, but let the characters direct their own path. I would even say let the characters stay away from where you want them and make your antagonist provide reasons to go in the other direction. Eventually they will find something that will make them turn around and go in the direction you want.

My approach to this is that I come up with my premise and then my ending. Then I go to character and that character will determine what plot points are. Sure, some plot points are put down regardless of them because the antagonist is behind them and the character reacts. There are times, I do my plotting before I truly know my characters, but my plot points key me into the their character. Somewhere in my brain, knows the character is like and I rarely have problems.

No one wants to play a game where it is by the numbers coloring. You want to feel like anything can happen. Why do you think open world video games are so popular? The same goes for the novels and characters. If you have ever read a book that feels like this is what is going to happen there really was not other options then the author is going from a to b to c. Why not try letting your characters go to from at to c first only for them to realize they need b. Organic writers I feel are better at this as they are discovering the story as they write. That doesn’t meant outlines can’t

What can you take away from this? Let your characters breath and have the freedom to do what they would. It opens the story more and allows for them to make mistakes naturally and then solve them. Organic writers I feel are better at this as they are discovering the story as they write. That doesn’t meant outlines can’t do it. Knowing the ending means you know when you need to throw the right thing into your characters path to get them to do what you want. However, forcing your characters to do something can be a good because if it is something they wouldn’t they will struggle with it or refuse to do it. That can cause problems later on.

Check back next Friday for my continue posts on Campaigning your Novel Craft Posts. We will be talking about Beginning and ending your campaign.

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  1. […] the other parts in the series read Campaign your Novel: Here & Character’s in your Campaign Here. Before I begin, I am going to give a disclaimer, I am not very experienced in D&D playing only […]

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