Welcome to week three of NaNoWriMo Prep mini-series. For those who are new, this series will be made up of four posts to help you prepare for National Novel Writing Month. To get caught up, you can find the first two posts, here (Post 1) and here (post 2). This week’s post is all about Characters. Before getting started, I just want to remind everyone the method I am using is part of Randy Ingermanson Snowflake Method. I merging different steps together to cover most of it in the four posts. You can read Randy’s free article on the Snowflake Method here. Today’s post I will be merging steps 3, 5 and 7 together.

So you have completed a full synopsis of your novel by taking your five sentence paragraph and turned each sentence into a paragraph. Maybe you even went beyond that and took each paragraph and fleshed it to a full page. Awesome. You know what is going to happen in your novel. What about the people who are in your story? You may have heard Character Driven stories before. If not you have now. As plotted out as you make your novel if the actions of characters in the story don’t seem believable or natural, it will seem more like events are happening to push the story forward instead of character’s actions moving them forward.

“Ah! Just perfect. Now you tell me. I have this five-page detailed story of what is going on, and now you tell me my characters have to be believable and would do these things? Just Perfect!” Some of you might be thinking that little quote. I kept it clean for this post. The bad news is yes. You might now be thinking why didn’t I start with characters? Well, that’s because if you visit Randy’s article you see he doesn’t start characters. It is why I posted a link to that page in the first post, post the link to the first post in the series last week, not just so new readers could get caught up. It is also why I reposted the link to the article this week.

There is good news. Now that you know a lot more about your story, I know what you need from your characters. Besides that, you know more about your protagonist and antagonist than you think. Let’s start from the beginning. Make a list of all your main characters. Once you have that list make a new page either in your word document or notebook and put the character’s name on top of the page. Then answer these questions.

  • The character’s name (You already have this)
  • A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
  • The character’s motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
  • The character’s goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
  • The character’s conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
  • The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
  • A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline

As Randy warns you may need to go back and fix one of your sentences. I didn’t warn you because I am not going in order of the steps. Don’t worry about going back yet. I took this into account before I started this series. For some of you, these questions may not be enough. They aren’t for me, so if you would like more  you can find Google search character profiles to see what you find. You can check out the one I use, character-cheat-sheet. Don’t worry more is coming in the Snowflake method. My character sheet is an option to use or take the information from to use as yourself for the next step.

Once you have your one page of information of the questions above. Now it is time to come up with a description of your character. Randy recommends a page for each character but this is up to you. This is fleshing out your character. This is step 5 and 7 is really continuing the expanding on your characters. Write down enough information about your characters that you feel comfortable with. Some things to think about is, what your characters look like, personality, history. Randy recommends telling the story through each character’s eyes. This would be their storyline. All of this is up to you.

The more you learn about your characters you will probably realize that some of the things you want them to do in your synopsis, they wouldn’t do or would only after being forced. You might think this is horrible. It’s not. It means your characters are coming alive. You can take George Lucas approach and have your characters be that of chess pieces and they do what you want or you can have real characters and let them tell you how they would act. Publishers love character driven stories.

Let’s give an example. Maybe you have a really cool part where one of your characters purposely sabotages a mission. It is key to the story and it isn’t your villain who does it. Now the character who was going to do this would never do such a thing. You don’t want to remove it because it would mess up your awesome way your protagonist gets around it. You have two options, change the character that can be hard if the character you have is already alive and telling you she wouldn’t do it. Or come up with a way where that character has no choice but to do it. The villain forces him to do it. Maybe, only by sabotaging the mission can the protagonist survive.

Trust me when I say, listening to your characters is only going to make your story stronger. If you get stuck on thing having to happen the way you came up, and force characters to do things they wouldn’t, you aren’t going to have a very good book. Now, there are genres that don’t worry as much about being character driven and focus more on the plot. Like a Thriller, well good don’t worry about so much. However, the stronger your characters regardless of the genre you are writing the better the story will be.

That is all for this post. Next week will be our last post, and it will focus on Final preparations. If you would like to know more about what that is, check the first post in this series to find out.

For anyone who is new to my blog and like the content of like this, be sure to check out my Weekly Craft post on Fridays. We are heavily into a massive series on Worldbuilding. This Friday we will be starting a new sub-series on Economics. You can get caught up on all the sub-series in the series by going to the Worldbuilding link in the toolbar. Monday’s I post my Weekly Writing Wrap-up, that covers how  I am doing on my current projects. That’s all, check back soon.

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