So begins 2015’s NoNoWriMo! How was your first day? If it was anything like mine, you left all forms of story planning and preparation to the very last minute. Or rather, waaaay after the very last minute…
Now the real fun begins, scrambling to figure out exactly what it is your characters are supposed to be doing. Perhaps you already have step 20 of your brilliant plot all figured out, the bit where all the action happens, where all the drama unfolds, but you’re not so sure on steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… So we’re faced with one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to story writing; story progression and linking events. This is the dilemma with my story at the moment. I know who my main character is, and I know what I want her to be able to do by the end of the story, but filling in the blanks between those two points is my first task.
Obviously there is no story if your character can accomplish their end goal with no resistance, which is where obstacles come in. You may be tempted to consider all the external obstacles first, but it’s the internal ones that can affect how your character acts even in the most mundane situations. You need to know how your character deals with things when this situation has yet to kick off before you can truly know how they will react when you start throwing all manner of calamities in their way.
And so my first step will be to truly get to know my character. I know her appearance and her personality on a basic level, and some of her back story and what I want her to do in the future. But I don’t know exactly how much patience she has. I don’t know which direction her moral compass points in. I’m not entirely sure how selfish or selfless she will be when the time comes, or what her first reaction will be when she is taken outside the comfort zone. For that matter what is the limit of her comfort zone? All things I hope to find out. Time to grab a pen and paper and sit down with my character to really get to know her. It’s time for an interview.
Nat Russo writes about how to find a character’s voice, a very useful process and one I recommend. Armed with a few good starting questions, your character will speak for themselves and tell you things you didn’t even know you knew about them. The end result? A much more fleshed out character that you understand and relate to better. And in turn, a better element to enhance your story. The first of many important building blocks.