September 8th, 2009

YOU WISH

Writing and Publishing a novel: CHARACTERS


Part II in WRITING AND PUBLISHING A NOVEL: Characters

 

( If you haven’t already,  read Part I: The Idea)

 

There are people out there who come up with characters first and then have to come up with a hook or story for those characters. I am not one of those people. And if you already have a character in mind, you probably don’t need this entry.

 

My process goes like this: Think up a big hook (IE, send a girl back in time) create a character (15 year old clumsy geek girl) and then think up the plot based on that character (gets stuck in 1815, meets a slew of new people, must solve their problems to get back to the 21st century).

 

So let’s pretend you’re like me. You have your BIG*AMAZING*IDEA, and you’re ready to write it, but you don’t know who you’re writing about.

 

The best thing you can do is look at your hook/concept, and then ask yourself: What kind of a person could I throw into this story that would create the most conflict?

 

Let’s use one of the television shows I mentioned last week: Veronica Mars. In this show, VM is the daughter of a private-eye, and she herself makes a little cash by solving her classmate’s problems. She figures out who is cheating on tests, who is stealing people’s stuff, and who is cheating on their boyfriends. It makes sense that she would be a character driven for the need for answers, and she doesn’t stop until she has them. So what did the writers do? They gave her a murdered BFF. The entire season, she is haunted by the one question with no answer: Who Dunnit?

 

Let’s use a second example from last week, one I made up: A fancy, elite boarding school somehow erroneously let’s in a whole slew of underachievers who wouldn’t know a Prada from a payless.

 

So what kind of character would you throw in there? Who do you want to focus on? Decide first who has most at stake: Is it the rich girl who has reined supreme for the last 3 years—and whose entire existence is being turned into a joke—or is it the classic low-income slacker who just wound up at a fancy prep academy?

 

 Either one would work, but let’s say you go with the slacker. Now you’ve got to decide on the background and details of this person. Is she happy being a slacker, or does she aspire to greater things? Let’s say she loves coasting along, taking the easiest classes, barely getting by. But would she still be happy if Miss Queen bee snubs her nose at her—or does she hate everything QB stands for—enough that she’d change her ways?

 

You can quickly see how putting the right character into your story becomes the driving force for the plot line. Sometimes going to one extreme or another will give you plenty of fodder to fill 200+ pages.

 

Its your character’s story arc which is going to cause the plot to climax, so put some thought into what kind of a person will give you enough to work with.

 

Next week we’ll go over my tips for getting the first draft down. You’ve got what you need in your idea and your characters, so how do you get it written? And what does BICHOC mean?


Stay tuned!