November 1st will be here before you know it. That means if you are planning on participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) you need to come to the table (or wherever you choose to write your soon-to-be-best-seller) fully prepared. Well, as prepared as you can be anyway. If your focus is on fiction, hopefully this post will help some of you clear away the mental cobwebs blocking your creativity.
So, the other day I read an article in the latest issue of Writer’s Digest titled “How to Develop Any Idea Into a Great Story”. In it the author talked about how agents and editors often tell new writers, “Don’t start at the beginning, start in the middle.” I shared this idea with a good friend of mine over a conversation we were having about how helpful character profiles can be in the early stages of story development. The article and the conversation prompted me to put together my own version of a character profile:
Lunch With My Protagonist
You and your protagonist are super tight and haven’t seen each other in months (weeks, years, your choice). By some miracle you finally got a chance to lock down a date and have a meal and some much needed conversation. Your protag arrives 10 minutes late and looks (worried, uncomfortable, disheveled…you fill in the blank). After you’ve hugged it out and sat down at the table the conversation begins.
Keep in mind that this conversation is taking place right in the middle of the story you are creating. The challenge is to respond to these questions in your main character’s voice as fast as you can without putting too much thought into the reply. How might your protag answer the following questions?
- You don’t seem yourself. What’s wrong?/What’s on your mind?
- When did all this begin?
- What were you doing before this happened?
- Now that you’re in this situation what do you plan on doing next?
- Say you don’t accomplish that goal, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
- Who else knows about this?
- What does your family think about all this?
- What did your boyfriend/girlfriend have to say about your situation?
- How much time do you have to figure things out?
- How will you know when this is over?
Other questions to take into account:
- What restaurant do you and your protagonist meet at?
- What does your protag order?
- What is he or she wearing?
- How is your main character behaving?
- What other things do you two talk about during this lunch date?
These character profiles can go on and on. The goal is to get as much information out of your main character as possible about what he or she knows about this situation they’ve been placed in. You may be surprised by the answers you get.
If you missed it the first time read the recent post “Writers unite! NaNo is less than 15 days away!” for more helpful advice.
Until next time,
Photo: Top photo: Movie / Lunch Date
Big shout out to all the folks who have reposted this article since it first appeared. Thanks a bunch! That includes Olivia over at Chillers and Thrillers. Go check her out.