NaNo Bootcamp Day 7: What’s Your Sign?

What’s your sign, baby? There are as many ways to talk about characters as there are types of characters. Some people like an archetype approach, some like zodiac, some like exhaustive questionnaires. We’ve already talked about the important stuff. What does the character want? What do they fear? When you’ve figured that out, you’ve got the hard part down. That’s building the creamy center. Because let’s be real. The cream is the best part of the Oreo. The peanut butter is the best part of the Reese’s Cup. The caramel is the best part of a Rolo. Once you get the delicious center cooked up, you simply need to dunk it in melted chocolate and enjoy. (Curse you, sweet tooth.) Please note that I did not say you need to analyze every molecule of the chocolate and account for every bit of sugar and fat and preservatives that go into your character treat. You do not need to know everything that has ever happened to your character, nor their favorite everything, nor what every inch of their body looks like. In fact, I think trying to come up with everything early on can be crippling. I’m currently reading Wired for Story, and Lisa Cron mentions something which I’ve seen referenced in other books on writing. Basically, if you write an exhaustive biography of your character, you’re going to feel like you need to include every detail you’ve created. (Sort of like the common curse of fantasy world-building.) That kind of stuff bogs down the story. If you write an excruciatingly detailed account of your character’s junior prom, then you’ll feel...

Back Again

Well, the last week or so is a good lesson in planning. Work has been busy, and then I went out of town to celebrate my best friend’s bachelorette. In a pipe dream, I thought I’d write all the entries ahead of time and simply schedule them to post on their day. I also thought I’d be able to write a 25,000 word eBook while prepping for NaNo. See how that worked out? In any case, I’ll be doing my best to catch up on some more prep work posts. Hopefully they’ll be useful even if they’re a little late. 🙂 Before I do get back to the bootcamp posts, I do want to share some exciting info: Yes, that’s right! Phantom Touch finally has a cover! I am so unbelievably excited. It should be released sometime in November. When I have solid details, I will let you know....

NaNo Bootcamp Day 6: The Core of the Character

Ahh, character. Characters are the lifeblood of the story. They are the chicken at the center of the Turducken that is your story. I actually had to Google the proper order of the Turducken. You’re welcome. Many writers are so fixated on the plot and the worldbuilding and the Aint It Cool factor of their story that they forget about the most important part: the characters. Many a Hollywood movie features bland cardboard cutouts that could be swapped for one another with no one noticing. See: 98% of action movies made. They feature a story – and sometimes barely that – that must occur in a certain way. The character simply stumble along because the plot demands it. That doesn’t mean you should do it. The last two entries talked extensively about goals and motivation, and for good reason. These are the things that will define your character, and that in turn will drive your story. The characters are the reader’s connection to the story. They are the vehicle through which the reader experiences the thrills and chills of your delightful plot. I’m probably going to step on some toes, but I think that a lot of people get character work wrong. A lot of people want to fill out these massive questionnaires that describe a thousand superficial things about the character and never really know the important stuff. For instance… What is your favorite ice cream? What color are your eyes? What kind of pets do you have? Who. Cares? Here’s what I care about: What keeps you awake at night? What do you fear losing more than...

NaNo Bootcamp Day 5: What’s My Motivation?

Previously, on NaNo Bootcamp…the angels got the phone box! Sam and Dean had brotherly angst! Walt and Jesse made meth! And we talked about goals. (Also, I watch a lot of TV.) Anyway. We’re still digging into the pre-story stuff. As I mentioned several days ago, a lot of this stuff will develop organically as you go through the outlining process. Some may not fully crystallize until you’re halfway through the first draft. And that is okay. But you need to be thinking about these things as you prepare, because this is going to help your first draft be exponentially more awesome. The last post was about goals. What does your character want? This is important, and if you don’t know why, go back and read the entry again. Now we’re going to talk motivation. A hundred people might want the same goal, but they might all have different reasons for wanting it. If goals are the “What do we want?” then motivation is “Why do we want it?” Motivation comes from the root word motive, whose root means “to move.” Motivation, then, is what moves you or pushes you to act a certain way. Motivation is a complex topic, and there are many writers and thinkers out there who have far more insightful ideas than I do about it. I’ll be linking a number of other articles both in this post and at the end for further reading. Take a few minutes to check them out and expand your mind. Actors often want to know their motivation. If they understand why their character acts a certain way, it helps them...

NaNo Bootcamp Day 4: Goooooooooooal

Self-help gurus have been saying it for years. You’ve gotta have goals. If you don’t have a goal, you’re standing still, watching life go by and waiting for things to happen. Your characters are no different. If they don’t have goals, they’re just passive cardboard cutouts, reacting to the random events of your story. That’s how you get those books where you find yourself two hundred pages in and wondering what the point is. Goal and motivation are tightly knotted together. Goal is the “what?” while motivation is the “why?” Put simply, your character must want something. Maybe they want to survive, to get laid, to win the job, to keep their secret, to kill the bad guy, to thwart the zombie apocalypse…these are all worthy goals. What’s the thing that keeps your character moving forward when it’s getting dark and the bullets are flying? What keeps them going on alone when everyone else says, “Turn back?” What keeps them clawing their way up Mount Doom? You have to know what your character’s goal is so that you can deny it. Story is what happens when your character pursues a goal and you firmly say, “No,” like a firm but loving parent. Or, you shout, “NO, AND I’LL PUNISH YOU FOR EVEN THINKING SO!” like a sadistic bastard, whichever way you lean. Either way, your story happens when your characters have to react to that denial and make a decision. So let’s talk goals. First, goals can be external or internal. The external goal typically results from the inciting incident of the story. Katniss Everdeen wants to survive the...