Tuesday, December 7, 2010By: Jon Paul | tags: characterization, NaNoWriMo, process
One of the biggest things I struggled with in NaNo--and one of the biggest surprises--was getting to the heart of the conflict between my two main characters, Daisy and her father Kodi. This was a new experience for me.
As you may remember, I tested a new approach for NaNo: I pretended to be a pantser for thirty days, just to see how the other (better?) half lives. In practical terms, this meant I didn't do many of the preparatory activities usual to my plotter approach, such as character background sheets, bios, and conflict identification (where I strive to identify points of friction between my characters).
It really affected how I wrote, to a degree much greater than I would have ever imagined. For my 50k words, I wrote nearly forty chapters in total. Of those, about fifteen are unfinished--and almost all of those were Daisy/Kodi scenes.
Throughout NaNo month, I tried again and again to get Kodi and Daisy to interact in a way that felt right, that possessed some depth and/or purpose, but nothing ever gelled. (I wrote loads of scenes between ancillary characters, some of them pretty key to the main action of the story, and I am happy with those for the most part). Since the Daisy/Kodi tension was the primary conflict of my novel, I was and still am less than pleased with the current disposition of my work.
I have been slow to recognize the central cause of my main character conflict troubles, but I think I've finally hit on it: If my characters are meeting for the first time on the page in the draft I'm writing at the moment, I'm gonna have a heck of time getting them to act like they've known each other for most of their lives. Maybe that's obvious or overly simple, but it's a revelation to me.
Though I'd been thinking about Daisy and Kodi for almost a year, I'd not written anything down about them--and that made all the difference in the world. Bottom line: I'm returning to my plotter ways, and one of the first things on my Daisy to-do list is to develop character profiles for Daisy, Kodi and a few other key players.
What about you? How do you get to know your characters? For NaNo participants, how are you going about "picking up the pieces" after November 30th?
at 6:38 AM