This has been one hell of a year so far (for brilliant and horrendous reasons both), but we still have a few months left to knock it out of the ballpark.
I feel like the last 3 months of the year go the quickest. What with all the holidays (Halloween, my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years...) and end-of-year pushes, we really aren't given much time to take a step back and observe. It forces us to be in the moment, and time tends to slip through our fingers like that. That, I think, is both a good and a bad thing, but that's not what this post is about. Maybe I'll write about that later.
Last week, I let all of you know that I would, once again, be participating in National Novel Writing Month with hopes of getting back into my habit of Winning. I also informed you that I would be plotting out as much as possible over the month of October so I can be prepared (or at least have some sort of ballpark as to where my story will be going) for November.
So here we are. It's week one, and this week's focus will be something very important:
That's the question you must ask yourself. I'd recommend asking yourself before you get started, but for all of you pantsers out there, I guess you can just ask that as you write. As your characters start to reveal more of themselves to you, you can add that to your write-up.
I've done a bit of research on character development and have taken it upon myself to compile a list of steps necessary for it, and I figured here was as good a place as any to share them.
This is so incredibly important. I cannot stress that enough.
There's a silly little quote going around in the writing community that you should only "write what you know." To this quote, I say, "no, thank you." If we only wrote what we knew, then we'd have no fantasy, no science fiction, and hell, we'd probably not have progressed as far as we are on so many levels.
I'd change the quote instead to say, "Know what you write." Yes, the nuance is subtle, but it puts the power back into your hands. You can write whatever you want, provided that you do the research necessary to do your novel justice. You're not going to write about space pirates without first doing a bit of reading on Blackbeard or Anne Bonny, right? Well, maybe you might focus on other pirates, but you get the point. Even if you don't have exact examples of things to research, you can find something to expand your knowledge.
So use your GoogleFu and get to researching!
In your mind, your characters should be as real to you as the person sitting next to you in the coffee shop. They need motivations, history, quirks, and it's your job to flesh those out.
And don't shy away from character flaws. Your main character will be beyond boring if they always do the right thing at the right time, and your story will feel hackneyed and trite. Even Nancy Drew, a seemingly perfect character almost to the point of being annoying, had her faults, so why wouldn't your characters?
Faults add dimension and a sense of realism that sucks your readers into your story. This level of dimension can be difficult to achieve, but if you make sure to focus on it during your edits (we all know first drafts - and even second drafts - are complete shite, so give yourself a break, ok?) you'll find that adding it can actually be quite fun.
Not All Nice Guys Finish Last
For the love of God, please stop with the cliches. I say this not only to you but also to myself. It's so easy to fall into the trappings of common characters. The Brooding Rebel, the Plain Jane, the Mary Sue... they're all characters that you've read and seen portrayed on the screen (be it silver or not) hundreds of times. Why would you want to rehash something you've already seen or read? You have to give your readers a reason to keep reading, and they don't want to read something that's a facsimile of something they've already read.
Sure, we've gotten to a point in our existence where one could say that every story has already been written, but not every story has been written by you. You have a unique voice that can turn the story on its head, you can make it your own, you can breathe life into a character that has been beaten to death with a dead horse.
Everybody's different. Your process might not be the same as someone else's, so it's difficult for me to tell you what to do.
The only thing I can tell you to do is this:
Write like the wind, with reckless abandon, unapologetically.
You only get better with practice, so get on it!
I'll be doing just that this week as I do some prep by working on fleshing out my characters. I'll post what I've come up with later on this week (Friday, maybe?), but expect it to fall pretty closely in line with the characters I have listed under The Big, Bad WIP. I have the benefit of already being relatively comfortable with the characters I'll be writing, but that doesn't mean I don't still have my work cut out for me.
Let me know what you come up with!