Last week I spent a few days doing some brainstorming. I started with a What If question that led to another, and another, and another, until I had eighteen questions in all. Those eighteen questions gave me a basic plot outline, taking my characters from introduction to ending. Then I started filling in the blanks by asking more questions to help me refine and further define the original questions. That led me to a list of questions five pages long, and over 2000 words. Now I think I am ready to start answering at least some of those questions. But how do I do it?
I started by printing my list. And then, of course, I forgot it on my desk at work. So the plans I had for this weekend kind of went up in smoke. I suppose I could print it again at home, but I’m not into wasting paper, so I’m going to do what I can without the printout. I still have the file, so it’s not like I don’t have the list, it just means I have to either flip between programs or set up my second monitor in order to be more efficient. And I like to be efficient. That’s one of my own OCD characteristics, I guess.
Speaking of characteristics, one of the questions I had to ask in my brainstorming session was “What are the character’s personalities and interests?” I have really got to answer that soon, as I still don’t really know much about my characters. So, in an attempt to get started on that, I made a list of things I would like to know about each of my four main characters. It’s not much, but it’s a start. The list covers three main areas: History, Personality, and Interests. Here it is:
- Other relatives:
- Significant other:
- Wealth & Class:
- Style of dress:
- Significant events:
- Character arc:
- Favorite classes:
- Favorite books/movies/music:
As you can see, the list is fairly basic. The largest section is the character history, and a lot of that section asks who else is in their family. That part is probably going to be the hardest one for me to fill in, actually, as I have trouble giving names to my characters. To be honest, most of the names that I have chosen for my characters are actually the real life names of the models and actors that I chose as inspiration. I started with different names, but then I decided that it may be helpful to use real names to make the kids reading the story relate better to the characters. After all, if they know actual people with the same or similar names, maybe they wouldn’t think so much about the fact that it was written by someone four times older than they are.
I plan on spending the next week going through all of my questions and figuring out how to answer them. I’ll fill in any holes and trim out any unnecessary fat. And then I’ll see if I can figure out how to present all of that information in an exciting and entertaining way. The main thing is that I will have to make sure my writing makes the characters come alive and doesn’t leave the reader feeling like something was missing. Without, of course, making it seem like they just sat through a three-hour lecture.
Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.
My final thought for the day is that my attempt to follow the schedule in the First Draft in 30 Days book is a failure. I can’t say it is a complete failure, even though I didn’t get past the first week, because it taught me a lesson. The lesson is that the method doesn’t work for me.
Writers are individuals. Maybe even more so that most people, because they try to have a deeper connection with both themselves and others as they write. The purpose of telling a story is to connect with someone else, to share a piece of life, even if it isn’t real. And although there are many, many, many books giving tips on writing, in the end you have to pick and choose what works for YOU. If you don’t, you won’t get that connection with your reader because you haven’t really connected with yourself.
I’ll probably post again on Wednesday, so check back and see what I’ve been up to. I’m going to try to work out some of the details for at least one of my characters by then. See you then!