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...

Writing Tools: Character and Storyboarding

Back in February, I taught a free workshop on Storyboarding. I could talk about story structure for hours and hours, but I had to show some mercy on the great crowd that showed up. With many beginning writers in the audience, we spent a good amount of time talking about the most basic building blocks of story. Because I’m a teacher by trade, I can’t help but make organizers, handouts, and other concrete tools to help teach a concept. By far, people were the most excited about the character section of the workshop. We talked about the big questions you need to answer about your characters and how to use the answers to shape a compelling story. For this, I developed the Getting to Know a Character worksheet, which was a blend of my own questions and ideas from Storyfix.com. I gave out envelopes with children’s book characters and settings, and each attendee came up with a character using the worksheet. We also discussed different ideas about story structure. In a two hour workshop, it’s hard to discuss something as massive as story structure. After all, look at the hundreds of thick books on the subject! So I FLEW through the big milestones, then gave them another worksheet – Story Milestones – to start plotting a story. I think it was a little much to get through in the workshop, but most people seemed to like the general idea of structure. In any case, please feel free to use these, and feel free to share as long as you leave the link at the bottom. Thanks and enjoy!...