Tag Archives: character development

#NaNoPrep: Countdown to November, Subject and Theme

NaNoWriMo 2021 officially begins one week from today on November 1st. For those of us who love a challenge, that will be the day we set the pen to paper and begin the actual writing of our projects.

plot is the frame upon which the themes of a story are supportedSo, what do we need to have in place during the next seven days before the big event?

One: We need to have characters.

Two: Our characters need an environment to live in, a world to inhabit.

Three: Our characters need some sort of backstory, so we know who they are when we begin writing.

Four: We need a plot or at least an inciting incident. We should have some idea of that moment when our frogs leap from the frying pan into the fire.

Five: You should try to identify your subject and unifying theme. We’ll talk about those things further on in this post.

How does my storyboard look right now?

Characters: This will be Ivan’s second book, so I have his backstory and don’t need to worry too much about that. Ivan is a fire-mage, an armorsmith, and a shaman. He is a father, a husband to his life partner, Kai. Kai is an earth-mage and a mason. The two share four children with another lashei couple, Avis and Venna. The children live with Ivan and Kai, as Avis and Venna are traveling dye traders.

The Home in WeilandEnvironment: Ivan and Kai live in Weiland, Tribe Weila’s riverport and mining center. Ivan’s extended family has five rowhouses at the upper end of High Street. It’s a steep but easy walk to the market for his grandfather, who lives next door and watches the children while Ivan and Kai work. I drew a little map for my notes, so I know the layout of where everything is in regard to their home and businesses. It could change, but I have something to start with.

His brother, Aldric, and his wife, Marta, have three children. They live at the other end of the row of houses. Ivan’s father, Aengus, and mentor, Jan, have their homes there too. Behind the rowhouses are a walled shared garden and orchard and the family’s barn. Ivan and Jan’s armory is a short walk through the back garden, and beyond that is Kai’s quarry.

The backstory: is already established for this book, as book one is currently being edited.

The inciting incident: At this point, the inciting incident is the arrival of news that a neighboring town has been attacked by tribeless raiders. It’s suspected the raiders are led by a rogue mage. Ivan and Kai must go and deal with that, a simple-sounding thing that becomes complicated. Aldric and Marta join them, leaving the children in the care of the three grandfathers.

What I hope to achieve by the last paragraph of this book: Ivan will be forced to grow in his role as a shaman and mage. Kai will be challenged when an old acquaintance is discovered in the rogue mage’s entourage. Aldric’s and Marta’s skills with weapons will be critical, and the blade that Ivan made for Marta when they were young will be the key to resolving the final encounter. Each character will be tempered steel, able to do what must be done, and still remain compassionate.

Subject and Theme: So, what is a theme? It’s different from the subject of a work. An example that most people are familiar with is the Star Wars series and franchise. The subject is “the battle for control of the galaxy between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance.” The themes are “moral ambiguity” or “the conflict between technology and nature.”

The subject of this book is how the desire for dominance and power corrupts an abused young mage, and the destruction he creates in his attempt to control his life. This book will explore the theme of good vs. evil and the subthemes of comradeship and love of family. The books I am drawn to often feature these themes.

How do you identify your theme? Sometimes it’s difficult unless you start out with one in mind. Here is a short list of some themes for you to consider:

  • Abuse
  • Alienation/loneliness
  • Ambition
  • Coming of age
  • Conspiracy
  • Crime and Justice
  • Fall from Grace
  • General dehumanization of society
  • Good vs. Evil
  • Grief
  • Humanity in jeopardy
  • Love
  • Nostalgia for the good old days
  • Plagues
  • Rebellion and revolution
  • Redemption
  • Religious intolerance
  • Separation and reunion
  • The hero’s journey
  • War

theme_meme_lirf06302020A common theme in fantasy is the juxtaposition of chaos and stability (or order). This subtheme will feature strongly in my novel. Good vs. evil is a trope of the speculative fiction genre. Evil is usually portrayed by taking one or the other of these concepts to an extreme.

Epic fantasy is usually good vs. evil, based on the hero’s journey. The stories detail how events shape the characters.

That is what I am writing in November.

#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

#NaNoPrep: Signing up and Getting Started

#NaNoPrep: Guernica, Inspiration, and Finding Writing Prompts

#NaNoPrep: Time Management

This Post: #NaNoPrep: Countdown to November, Subject and Theme

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#NaNoPrep: Time Management #amwriting

If you plan to write a 50,000-word novel this coming November, you will need to develop some time management skills.

NaNoWriMoMemeWriting is easier once it becomes a daily behavioral habit. However, making the best use of your limited writing time requires a little planning, self-discipline, and encouragement from your family.

Once you tell them that you have a goal of writing 1,667 words a day, they might be your biggest supporters. My family certainly has been.

My children are grown now, but most new writers have jobs and a family. When you have school-age children, time for personal projects can be limited. You are constantly going somewhere to some athletic or school function.

But I did it, and you can too. By writing in short bursts whenever you have the opportunity, you might get your first draft finished and get that certificate that says you completed 50,000 words in 30 days.

First, you must give yourself permission to write. For much of my working life, I was a single parent, sometimes with three part-time jobs. My main job was as a bookkeeper or working in data entry for corporate America. Throughout the 1990s, I worked weekends and holidays as a hotel maid. I’m retired now, but although I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, I was a secret novelist, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was writing.

Digital Clock FaceWe have this perception that taking time for creativity is selfish, and that will be your biggest hurdle. Trust me, it is not asking too much of your family for you to have some time every day that is sacred and dedicated to writing.

I wrote in the evenings while my children did their homework, which sometimes meant a lot of stopping and starting, but I did get some writing done. Some words are better than none! You can also set aside a block of time on the weekend to make up some words, although that can be difficult. Setting aside time on a weekend can become a hardship, especially if you have a young family.

Having me there, typing away next to the gerbil cage seemed to keep them on track with their homework, and I did get a page or two written every night.

What I churned out was pretty awful, but although I didn’t know it at the time, I was developing discipline and a work ethic in myself as well as in my children.

Having an artistic life means you allow yourself time to create something meaningful to you.

The following is a list of ideas to help you carve the time to write and still be a full participant in your family’s life.

  • You must decide what is more important, your dream of writing or watching a television show that is someone else’s dream. Do you want to create, or do you want to be entertained?

Personally, I would say that if you didn’t like how Game of Thrones turned out, too bad. Write it the way you think it should have been done. Writing fan-fiction is a time-honored way to start your writing career.

  • You have the right to take an hour in the morning and the evening to use for your own creative outlet. Wake up an hour early and write until the time you would generally get up. That will be the quietest time you will have all day. Give up that 9:00 p.m. TV show and write for one more hour. There are your 2 precious hours.

Use those two separate hours for your stream-of-consciousness writing. You could easily get your 1,667 words written every day, possibly more. I am a slow keyboard jockey, and I can do about 1,100 wonky, misspelled words an hour during NaNoWriMo.

ALL words you write count toward the goal, misspelled or not.

Time_Management_Quayle_QuoteWrite for five minutes here and ten minutes there all day long if that is all you can do. Every word counts toward your finished manuscript. I took my lunch to work and wrote during my lunch half-hour whenever possible. I also wrote on the bus when I didn’t own a car.

You don’t have to announce to your co-workers or family that you are writing a book if you don’t wish to. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable saying anything about my secret life.

  • If you want to spend your lunchtime writing, politely let people know you’re handling personal business and won’t have time to chat.

Writing in the stream-of-consciousness style is an excellent way to cultivate your emotional and poetic mind. It will improve your writing skills in general.

During NaNoWriMo, you engage in unedited writing. Nothing is deleted and every word counts. Even with an outline, sections of your narrative will often be unstructured because it reflects your (or your character’s) observations at the moment you were thinking them.

Writing in this fashion mirrors the way internal thoughts in the human mind work. You are quickly processing thoughts and perhaps switching from one topic to another with abandon. Just go for it.

powerwordsWordCloudLIRF06192021Remember, what you are writing is a rough draft, so your story arc will be bumpy and uneven. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t worry about making it so. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get that first draft written in thirty days. So, every time you have fifteen minutes to spare, sit down and write as much as you can in that short length of time. Spew your story as fast as you can in those moments before you are pulled away. With six or seven short bursts of writing, you can really rack up the word count.

In January or March, or whenever you go to revise your first draft, you might be amazed to find that much of what you originally wrote has life and passion.

The point is to keep on writing even when you have fallen behind. Use whatever motivational tricks you need to encourage yourself, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Far more important than simply getting word count, the goal is to finish your novel.

Writers and other artists do have to make some sacrifices for their craft. It’s just how things are. But you don’t have to sacrifice family for it. Sacrifice one hour of sleeping in and give up something ephemeral and unimportant like one hour of TV.

You can achieve your goal of 50,000 words in 30 days if you give yourself permission to create and make the time to do so.


#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

#NaNoPrep: Signing up and Getting Started

#NaNoPrep: Guernica, Inspiration, and Finding Writing Prompts

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#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, Plotting the End #amwriting

Some writers are “pantsers,” not “plotters.” Maybe you fall into that group and love NaNoWriMo because you can let the ideas flow freely. I have “pantsed it” on occasion, and it can be liberating.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_Novel_in_a_monthBut sometimes, when writing the first draft, we realize our manuscript has gone way off track and is no longer fun to write. That is where the storyboard and my loose outline become important.

My previous posts in this series talked about the story arc and how having a list of prompts can move the story forward and keep it flowing. We have made a list of prompts that will help us get started. We have a character, we have a world, and we have a situation. My sample outline looks like this:

Outline10092021LIRF

Now we must plot the finale, the event that will give Dave his greatest desire.

Hindrances matter. 

  1. It’s an ordinary suitcase, one you might find in any budget-friendly chain store. Dave is familiar with clients who try to hide money and realizes he has to think like a crook.
  2. He purchases a matching suitcase to use as a decoy.
  3. Dave’s new furniture arrives from the Large Swedish Furniture company.
  4. He can’t read Swedish directions, but his neighbor, Sophia, does, and she helps him.
  5. While assembling his furniture, he realizes he has the perfect place to hide the actual suitcase. After Sophia leaves, he puts it in the open space behind the drawers beneath his platform bed.
  6. With the original suitcase hidden, Dave visits a secondhand bookstore run by his neighbor, Sophia.
  7. He buys a large number of secondhand books for his apartment, some of which are in bad condition, claiming he loves to read but loves a good bargain more.
  8. At home, he fills the decoy suitcase with the worn books and hides it in a closet.
  9. He is barely settled in his new apartment when he is robbed.
  10. The decoy suitcase is stolen, but all it contains are beat-up copies of the entire Wheel of Time series in English and two out-of-date copies of Accounting for Dummies.
  11. Dave is kidnapped and threatened with bodily harm.
  12. He doesn’t crack. Why?
  13. His neighbor, Sophia, poses as a pizza delivery person and springs him. Surprise! She works for his employer and is his bodyguard.
  14. The agent Dave is holding the suitcase for turns up dead.
  15. Dave is handcuffed to the suitcase again, and he and Sophia must hurry to take it to Paris.
  16. There is a battle at the airport, but they make it onto the airplane.
  17. Enemy agents are waiting in Paris, but Sophia has mad martial arts skills.
  18. The suitcase is handed off to the proper authorities.
  19. Dave is free to go back to Seattle and his old life as an accountant.
  20. But he is offered a permanent job with his current employer.
  21. What does Dave choose, security and boredom, or adventure and a bodyguard like Sophia?

The entire outline takes about two pages. You haven’t written the story, but you have given yourself a skeleton upon which you can hang a novel.

storyArcLIRF10032021

Each prompt can (and will) be riffed on or changed from page one, but ultimately, the final battle in Paris and the chase to the embassy will be the goal we are writing to.

If six authors used this outline, you would end up with six completely different novels. Once you begin writing, the creative brain takes over, and what emerges will be unlike anything another author wrote.

By the time you arrive at the end, it might have evolved into an entirely different book than you envisioned at the beginning.

This is because you will be “pantsing it” between the prompts, and anything can happen when you sit down and write whatever enters your mind.

Just make notes of your changes and keep the overall story arc in mind.

Some people (and I am one of them) occasionally find it easier to begin writing a novel by writing the last chapter first. That is how I wrote my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel.

I wrote that final chapter, then asked myself who the characters were, how they had gotten there, and why they were in those circumstances. For that book, I wrote the outline in reverse.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to write a novel.

Neil_Gaiman_QuoteEvery novel is different, has a different genesis, and emerges from the author’s mind with its own personality.

The trick for NaNoWriMo is to get 1,667 new words written every day for 30 consecutive days. At the end of November, you should have 50,000 or more words written, and possibly your entire first draft.

To sign up for National Novel Writing Month, go to www.nanowrimo.org and get your profile started.


#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

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NaNoPrep, Construction, and Deconstruction

We are building up to NaNoWriMo 2021. For the last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on the creation of a storyboard. We’ve discussed characters and worldbuilding. Today, we’ll talk about book construction and what we can learn by reading work published by the big traditional publishers.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_Novel_in_a_monthWhether you hope to be published traditionally or plan to go indie, you must know what the reading public is buying. You will probably write a book that is squarely set in your favorite genre.

I read in many genres. Most of what I write is genre fantasy, but mystery and contemporary fiction also intrigue me.

Your assignment for today is to find a book you love, sit down with a notebook and pencil, and dissect that narrative to discover what that author did to draw you in and keep you involved.

Even the best books have flaws. Great characters, proper pacing, and attention to plotting keep those rough places from derailing a brilliant book. The flaws are just as important for me to identify as are the things I love.

So, let’s take a look at the construction of a recent entry into the classic mystery genre that impressed me, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

Publisher: ‎Harper; Unabridged edition (June 6, 2017)

Publication date: June 6, 2017

Print length: 501 pages

But first, THE BLURB:

41OtsmHYJLLWhen editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.

My Dissection:

First, Magpie Murders was published by one of the Big Traditional Publishing houses, Harper. This means the publisher decided it would sell enough in hard copy to justify supporting the author with advertising.

What makes this book better than the competition? Many authors published by Harper don’t get the kind of support this book got. What made this book more marketable?

  1. It was an original way to twist the Agatha Christie formula for cozy mysteries.
  2. Readers are given a story within a story, and within that story is hidden another story. The novel opens with an editor reading the manuscript of an author whom she despises personally but whose work she loves.
  3. We read the manuscript that editor Susan Ryeland has been given, experiencing it simultaneously as she does.
  4. Within the novel that Ryeland must edit are many clues, not only to the mystery she is supposed to edit but also to solve the murder of the author.
  5. Those clues take an unusual form—word games, something people who love anagrams and word puzzles will enjoy. The dead author used this trick to write his acquaintances into his novels, rearranging the letters of their names and portraying them in an unflattering light.
  6. The murdered author was known for using the plots of his less talented students’ work and stealing plots and names wholesale from Agatha Christie.
  7. These name anagrams are intended to be noticed by his fellow authors and acquaintances, a deliberate attempt to make them uncomfortable or angry.
  8. Halfway into the novel, our editor discovers that the final chapters of the book are missing. She goes on a mission to find those chapters.
  9. In the process, she discovers just how hateful and rotten the murdered man was.

chicago guide to grammarNow, let’s talk MECHANICS. The author of the Magpie Murders has worked as a journalist. He has taken the time to become educated in grammar and understands common industry standards.

  1. If you want to write a book that other people can read, you must understand the fundamental rules of grammar.
  2. He didn’t get too artful, except when he was writing as the murder victim. That artfulness was there to point out the victim’s arrogance.

What I take home from dissecting books like this is that a plot can be complicated, but simplicity is sometimes best for prose.

A few things I didn’t like, some of which were deliberate. These things didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book:

  1. The pacing was a little uneven. In one place, it grinds to a complete halt. I could see why the author had made that choice as part of the overall plot, but I didn’t like it and wished he’d found a different way to make that point.
  2. The novel “written by the murdered man” was gripping, but I didn’t understand that fictional book’s ending until the editor confronted the author’s murderer. Again, that was deliberate on the dead author’s part, written that way as one more reason to hate him. But I would have liked to understand it before we got to that place.
  3. The relationship between Susan Ryeland and her boyfriend lacks tension. When their relationship was threatened with falling apart, I didn’t care.

Overall, this is an excellent, well-written book. If you write mysteries and want to know what the big publishers are looking for, you must read what they publish.

This is why I read what Tor Forge publishes in my genre of fantasy. If I hate it, I dissect it and find out why. An editor accepted that manuscript and promoted it, and I want to know why. If I love it, I dissect it for the same reason.

You must read if you want to know how a good book is plotted, how worlds are created, and how characters are built. Make notes and learn from the mistakes and successes of others.


#NaNoPrep series to date:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

This Post: #NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

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#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

All through September, we’ve focused on building our NaNoWriMo storyboard. We’re preparing the groundwork that will allow us to write 1667 new words or more every day during the month of November.

We are four weeks into this series, and we’ve compiled a long list of essential things to consider. So now, we’re going to zoom in and take a closer look at what my co-ML, Lee French, calls “the stuff that permeates everything, and how they interact.”

We have looked at designing systems for technology and magic. We know which scenario we are choosing, and we’ve figured out how it works. Now we’re going to look at how those systems are connected to the people and how they impact the way our characters live in their worlds.

Lee reminds us that in the case of technology and magic both, the most significant impact is on the efficiency of routine tasks:

“In a contemporary, real-world setting, you have everything we have now. If you want to contact someone, you can call, text, or email them.

“In many fantasy settings, magic replaces tech with a fantastical version of something, like casting a spell instead of calling, texting, and/or emailing.

“In sci-fi settings, advanced tech typically makes things faster, like having a cranial implant that eliminates the need to type–all you do is ‘think’ and it happens. Maybe there aren’t voice calls anymore, and everything happens by text.

“In low-tech, no-magic settings, things take longer to accomplish. There is no phone, so you have to write a letter or go visit someone in person.”

Just because some technology exists doesn’t mean everyone has access to it.

We go back to considering the layers of society. Who is in charge? Where does our protagonist fit in that hierarchy? Who has access to the best magic/technology? Is our protagonist one of the lucky few or one of the underclasses? Where does the antagonist fit in society?

Think about the subgenre of cyberpunk: it encompasses many features of hard science fiction and the dark anarchy of classic Sturm und Drang but is set in a dystopian society. The religions people worship are technology and industry. Corporate uber-giants are the gods whose knowledge mere mortals desire and whom they seek to replace. Recreational drugs are the magic potions, and technology is the superpower mortals desire to wield.

And, just like all demi-gods in classical mythology, when a powerful and clever protagonist does manage that feat, nothing changes for mere mortals. The new gods are no better than those whose thrones they have usurped.

Wikipedia defines cyberpunk: Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a future setting that tends to focus on the society of the proverbial “high tech low life”  featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as information technology and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.” [1]

Works in this subgenre are always set in a post-industrial dystopian world with deep divisions in the strata of society. Some have a specified caste system, but most people live in extreme poverty in all cyberpunk tales. There will be a small middle class, and at the top, a few of the most powerful people hold incredible wealth. These societies have fallen into extreme chaos, which is the driver of the story.

Protagonists acquire and use technology in ways never anticipated by the original inventors. A central element of cyberpunk is “the street finds its own use for things.”

So, now we understand that privilege, or lack thereof, shapes a person’s place in society, no matter what genre you choose to best tell your story. How does the protagonist see themselves in relation to the antagonist? Better than, as good as, or beneath but clawing their way up?

Who are these characters when they’re home? Write a paragraph or two introducing them to you, showing them as they are when no one is looking. Do they cook, clean, answer messages, etc.? What tech/magic are they comfortable interacting with on a daily basis? Get this out of the way now, so it doesn’t make an appearance in the narrative as an unnecessary info dump later.

Considering these things now can speed things up when you plot your opening scene. You’ll see your characters fully formed in their comfort zone and know who they are and how they think. When you write those first lines, you will have no trouble seeing them as unique individuals.

If you are writing a novel set in our contemporary world, most of the work is already done. Your concerns should focus on the specifics of where your story takes place and the opinions of your characters.

If you choose to include contemporary politics, events, and tech, keep in mind that your novel will no longer be current in ten years. It will recount a history that recedes further into the past every year.

That is NOT a bad thing, not by any means.

One of my favorite genres to read for pleasure is mystery. I have always enjoyed the characters in the Gregor Demarkian series by the late Jane Haddam. These novels were set firmly in the political climate of the 1990s and early 2000s, the era in which most books in the series were written.

While references to technology and political events date these books (as do the religious and social complications), great characters, murder, and the mystery of why it happens are timeless.

These novels are compelling despite the advances in today’s technology and the changes in the way society sees itself. The characters are engaging, and the worldbuilding creates a solid, believable image of 1990s Philadelphia.

If you are setting your story in a historical era, remember that sometimes the events of one year can change everything about a society.

If your story is set in a specific year with significant events that changed everything for whole societies, take some time to think about whether you want it before or after the incidents. Think about how those events impact your characters.

I would say that 2019 was a vastly different time than 2021. Any novel set in contemporary 2021 will have societal aspects and complications that are wholly unique to this time and this world and very different from one set in that long-ago-time of 2019.

#NaNoPrep series to date:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

This post: #NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Cyberpunk,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cyberpunk&oldid=1020463998 (accessed May 15, 2021).

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#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

We are continuing the build of our storyboard for NaNoWriMo2021. My planned NaNoWriMo project takes place in the world of Neveyah, a world where five other books have been set. Neveyah is an alien environment, yet it’s extremely familiar to me.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_101I know that world because I based the plants and topography on the Pacific Northwest, where I live. Other than the Escarpment, which is the visible scar left behind by the Sundering of the Worlds, the plants and geography are directly pulled from the forested hills and farmlands of Southern Puget Sound and Western Washington State.

In 2008, when I first began writing in this world, I went to science to see how long it takes for an environment to recover from cataclysmic events. I took my information from the Channeled Scablands of Washington State, a two-hour drive from my home. This vast desert area is comprised of the scars of a series of natural disasters that occurred around 13,000 years ago.

From Wikipedia: The Cordilleran Ice Sheet dammed up Glacial Lake Missoula at the Purcell Trench Lobe. A series of floods occurring over the period of 18,000 to 13,000 years ago swept over the landscape when the ice dam broke. The eroded channels also show an anastomosing, or braided, appearance.

The story I’m prepping for takes place only a century after a world-shattering disaster, so the way the world was before the Sundering is still fresh in their lore. The elders remember the culture and technology and know firsthand what was lost in the cataclysm. I am plotting book 2 of a duology, so I’ve already established that my protagonist is a shaman and devoted to caring for the fragile ecology.

But perhaps you are writing a historical novel. A certain amount of worldbuilding will be required, no matter when or where your book is set.

Let’s say you are writing an account of a soldier’s experiences in the Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive. This battle was a pivotal point in World War II. American forces endured most of the attack, suffering their highest casualties of any operation during the war.

512px-Western_Front_Ardennes_1944

US Army Center for Military History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Researching and building the world this novel takes place in will be time-consuming but easy because a great deal of information about this battle exists. You can access documents and accounts from both sides of the war. The Ardennes region covers the province of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg, and many maps showing the area as it was in 1945 are still available in libraries and on the internet.

In regard to the events and battles of World War II, generals of both sides left many documents detailing how the terrain they were forced to fight on affected their decisions.

But even though your book may explore a real soldier’s experiences through newsreels, the pages of his diary, and the interview you had with him just before his death at the age of 94, you are still writing a fantasy.

This is because, in reality, the world of this book exists only in three places:

  1. it flows from the author’s mind
  2. to the pages of the book
  3. into the reader’s mind through the written word

We can only view history through the stained-glass of time. History, even recent events, assumes a mythical quality when we attempt to record it. Even a documentary movie that shows events filmed by the news camera may not be portrayed exactly as it was truly experienced. The facts are filtered through the photographer’s eye and the historian’s pen.

Modern Romance, historical, and contemporary novels are genres set in real-world locations. Their authors are fortunate, as information is usually available for the researcher to dig up. For an author recounting any historical era, information will be accessible since archaeologists and historians are constantly expanding our knowledge of history.

Any story set in prehistorical times is a fantasy.

  • Historical eras are those where we have written records.
  • Any story taking place in a society that left no written records must be considered a fantasy as little scientific facts are available, although mythology, conjecture, and theorizing abound.

If you are setting your novel in a real-world city as it currently exists, make good use of Google Earth. Bookmark it now, even if you live in that town, as the maps you will generate will help you stay on track while you are winging it during NaNoWriMo.

If you are writing a tale set in a fantasy or sci-fi setting, you are creating that world.

Neveyahmap jpeg of original scanned doc

Original Map of Neveyah from 2008 © Connie J. Jasperson

The first map of my world of Neveyah series was scribbled with a pencil on graph paper. Over time it evolved into a full-color relief map of the world as it exists in my mind.

I love maps. My own maps start out in a rudimentary form, just a way to keep my story straight. I use pencil and graph paper at this stage because:

  • As the rough draft evolves, sometimes towns must be renamed.
  • They may have to be moved to more logical places.
  • Whole mountain ranges may have to be moved or reshaped so that forests and savannas will appear where they are supposed to be in the story.
Map of Neveyah, color copy compressed

Neveyah © 2015 – 2021 Connie J. Jasperson

What should go on a map? At this point, not a whole lot.

  • The name of the town or area where the story begins.

Yep, that’s it, unless you are in the mood to draw maps. All you need for now is the jumping off point.

In November, you will add all the details as they occur to you, and believe me, they will come. In the meantime, your map page will be ready and waiting for you to note the particulars. When you are spewing words, the details will emerge, and you will have a place ready for them.

Why should you be worried about this now? It will be one thing you don’t have to worry about when you are pantsing it. The page will be there, and the map will be waiting for you to add to it.

When your characters are traveling great distances, they may pass through villages on their way. Perhaps the environment will impede your characters.

If environmental or geographical obstacles are pertinent to the story, it will be easy for you to take a moment to note their location on your map. This way, you won’t interrupt the momentum of your writing, and won’t contradict yourself if your party must return the way they came.

Billy's Revenge Floor plan ground floorIf your work is sci-fi, consider making a map of the place where the action happens. It could be a pencil-drawn floor-plan of a space station/ship or the line drawing of part of an alien world. I drew the floorplan of Billy’s Revenge for my reference, as most of the novel, Billy Ninefingers, takes place there.

Your storyboard is your lifeline in November, offering you dots to connect and help you stay organized when you are writing stream-of-consciousness. During the lead-up to November, make notes about your environment whenever you have an idea that you’d like to incorporate into your novel.


The #NaNoPrep series to date:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

Today’s post: #NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Channeled Scablands,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Channeled_Scablands&oldid=1031181669 (accessed September 21, 2021).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Western Front Ardennes 1944.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Western_Front_Ardennes_1944.jpg&oldid=470134455 (accessed September 21, 2021).

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#NaNoPrep: Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

Many authors will begin writing novels on November 1st.  Some will be genre fiction–fantasy, romance, sci-fi, etc.. I read sci-fi and seek out fantasy but I’m also a born skeptic. Logic is an area many first-time authors ignore, because some wonderful trick has captured their imagination. It may be a good idea but they didn’t think it through very well, so it doesn’t work.

Science, the paranormal, and magic must be written in such a way that we can easily and wholeheartedly suspend our disbelief.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_101Open your storyboard and create a new page. You are going to create the limits of science, magic, or the paranormal. By creating limitations, you create opportunities for conflict.

  • Hint: make a “glossary,” a list of the proper spellings for all words that relate to or are special to the science or magic in your story. This will save your sanity later on.

In designing a story where superpowers, super weapons, or magic are key elements, we have to keep two important ideas in mind:

Science is not magic. The writer of true science fiction must know the difference, especially when creating possible weapons. Superweapons and superpowers are science based. Think Stan Lee’s Spider-Man. The theory behind superweapons and /or superpowers might be improbable, but it’s logical and rooted in the realm of theoretical physics.

scienceAuthors of sci-fi must research and understand the scientific method. This path of testing and evaluation objectively explains nature and the world around us in a reproducible way. Sci-fi authors must look things up, read scientific papers, and ask questions.

An important thing for authors to understand is who their intended readers are. Those who read and write hard science fiction are often employed in various fields of science, technology, or education in some capacity. They know the difference between physics and fantasy.

The paranormal is not science or magic. It works best when the opening pages establish that the paranormal exists as a part of that world but has limitations. The paranormal should follow a logic of some sort. Start with a premise: Ghosts, or vampires, or shapeshifters, or werewolves, or any kind of paranormal entity exist.

  1. What are the conditions under which they cannot exist?
  2. If ghosts, can they interact with the physical world? Why or why not?
  3. What powers do the paranormal characters have?
  4. Under what conditions do their powers not work?
  5. What harms them? (Sunlight? A silver bullet? Something must be their kryptonite or there is no story.)

Magic is not science, but it should be. Magic also works best when the population accepts that it exists and has limitations. When you think about it, magic should only be possible if certain conditions have been met. It should be logical and follow a set of rules.

For me, magic as an element of a fantasy novel works under the following conditions:

  1. if the number of people who can use it is limited.
  2. if the ways in which it can be used are limited.
  3. if the majority of mages are limited to one or two kinds of magic and only certain mages can use every kind of magic.
  4. if there are strict, inviolable rules regarding what each kind of magic can do and the conditions under which it will work.
  5. if there are some conditions under which the magic will not work.
  6. if the damage it can do as a weapon or the healing it can perform is limited.
  7. if the mage or healer pays a physical/emotional price for the use.
  8. if the mage or healer pays a hefty price for abusing it.
  9. if the learning curve is steep and sometimes lethal.
  10. Is your magic spell-based rather than biological/empathic?
  11. If magic is spell-based, can any reasonably intelligent person learn it if they find a teacher or are accepted into a school?

magicSatisfying these conditions sets the stage for you to create the Science of Magic. This is an underlying, invisible layer of the world. By creating and following the arbitrary rules of this “science,” your story won’t contradict itself.

What challenges do your characters have to overcome when learning to wield their magic/superpower or super weapon?

Is the character born with the ability to use the superpower or magic? Or was it learned or conferred?

  • Are they unable to fully use their abilities?
  • If not, why?
  • How does their inability affect their companions?
  • How is their self-confidence affected by this inability?
  • Do the companions face learning curves too?
  • What has to happen before your hero can fully realize their abilities?

Personal Power and the desire for dominance is where the concepts of science, magic, and the paranormal converge.

In all my favorite science fiction and fantasy novels, the enemy has access to equal or better science/magic/superpower. How the protagonists overcome their limitations is the story.

The_Pyramid_Conflict_Tension_PacingConflict forces the characters out of their comfortable environment. The roadblocks you put up force the protagonist to be creative. Through that creativity, your characters become stronger than they believe they are.

Take the time to create the rules and write a document for yourself that clearly defines what limits characters face when using their magic.

  • If the protagonist and their enemy are not from the same school of magic or science, you should take the time to write out what makes them different and why they don’t converge.
  • You must also clearly state the limits of science for both the protagonist and antagonist. Take the time to write it out and be sure the logic has no hidden flaws.

In creating science technologies and magic systems, you are creating a hidden framework that will support and advance your plot. Within either system, there can be an occasional exception to a rule, but there must be a good reason for it, and it must be clear to the reader why that exception is acceptable.

An important thing to consider whether using magic or technology: the only time the reader needs to know these systems exist is when it affects the characters and their actions. Write it as a natural part of the environment rather than discussing it in an info dump.

Science and magic are two sides of the personal-power coin.

2020_nano_Project_coverIf you design this now, on November 1st, you will have the framework to showcase your characters ambitions, the drive to acquire more personal power, and the lengths characters will go to in their efforts to gain an edge over their opponents. Everything will be in place for a free-wheeling dive deep into the consequences of your protagonist’s struggle.

The fundamental tropes of science, magic, or superpowers offer your characters opportunities for success. But to be believable, those opportunities must not be free and unlimited.

Magic, science, and superpowers share common ground in one area—they offer characters an edge in whatever struggle they face.

However, neither science nor magic can support a poorly conceived novel. Both science and magic are just tools. Strong, charismatic characters, powerful struggles, and serious consequences for failure make a brilliant novel.

Do a little planning now so that when you begin writing on November 1st, you see your characters clearly and know what they are capable of and what they can’t do. Those limitations will offer you many opportunities for mayhem.


#NaNoPrep series to date:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

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#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

Worlds are comprised of plants, animals, and geology, which we touched upon in the first post of this series. But if intelligent life-forms are living on that world, there will also be societies.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_101We humans are tribal and like having an overarching power structure because someone has to be the leader, which isn’t a job most people want once they see what is involved. Being the leader means bearing the responsibility when things go wrong, usually more often than basking in the glory when it’s all good.

Proving how tribal we are, all smaller segments within societies, from families to businesses, to churches, to governments – all have organized leadership structures, even if they aren’t formally described as such.

We will be pantsing it (writing stream-of-consciousness) for the month of November, which means we’ll be writing at least 1667 new words every day, connecting the events that we will be storyboarding later in this series. We won’t have time to think about logic once we begin writing the narrative, which is why we’re creating the storyboard.

If your society is set in modern suburbia, that culture and those values will affect your characters’ view of their world.

But perhaps you are writing a sci-fi or fantasy novel. To show a world logically and without contradictions, we must know how things work in the cities and towns, whether set in a medieval world or on a space station. Merchants, scientists, priests, soldiers, teachers, healers, thieves – each occupation has a place in the hierarchy and has its own chain of command.

Dirck_Hals_001Society is always composed of many layers and classes. Below is a list of questions for you to consider when building your fantasy or sci-fi civilization. I admit it’s long, but please bear with me.

These are what I think of as “porch questions.” This is the stage where I sit on the  back porch and consider the world my characters will inhabit. Going somewhere quiet and pondering these questions will make the culture your characters inhabit clearer in your mind. 

How is your society divided? Who has the wealth? (Feel free to copy and paste the list to a page you can print out.)

  • Is there a noble class?
  • Is there a servant class?
  • Is there a merchant class
  • Is there a large middle class?
  • Who makes up the most impoverished class?
  • Who has the power, men, women—or is it a society based on mutual respect?

Ethics and Values: What constitutes morality and how do we treat each other?

  • Is marriage required?
  • How are women treated?
  • How are men treated?
  • How are the different races viewed?
  • Is there a cisgender bias or is there acceptance of different gender identities?
  • How are same-sex relationships viewed?
  • How are unmarried sexual relationships seen in the eyes of society?
  • How important is human life?
  • How is murder punished?
  • How are treachery, hypocrisy, envy, and avarice looked upon?
  • What about drunkenness?
  • How important is the truth?
  • What constitutes immorality?
  • How important is it to be seen as honest and trustworthy?

Power structures are the hierarchies that encompass the leaders, the people with the power. It is an overall system of restraint and control among selected members of a group. Think of it as a pyramid.

Pyramid_of_Power_Structures_09132021LIRF

Religion rarely is a component of sci-fi but often figures prominently in fantasy work. In sci-fi, science and technology take the place of religion, with similar hierarchies and fanatics, just with different job titles.

Archbishop might be replaced with Head of Research and Development.

Cardinal or Pope might be replaced with General, Admiral, or CEO (Chief Executive Officer).

Level of Technology: What tools and amenities are available to them? What about transport?

  1. Hunter/Gatherers?
  2. Agrarian/farming?
  3. Greco-Roman metallurgy and technology?
  4. Medieval metallurgy and technology?
  5. Pre-industrial revolution or late Victorian?
  6. Modern-day?
  7. Or do they have a magic-based technology?
  8. How do we get around, and how do we transport goods? On foot, by horse & wagon, by train, or by space shuttle?

Portrait_of_King_Henry_VIII, Hans Holbein the YoungerGovernment: There will be a government somewhere, even if it is just the local warlord. Someone is always in charge because it’s easier for the rest of us that way:

  1. Is it a monarchy, theocracy, or a democratic form of government?
  2. How does the government fund itself?
  3. How are taxes levied?
  4. Is it a feudal society?
  5. Is it a clan-based society?
  6. How does the government use and share the available wealth?
  7. How do the citizens view the government?

Crime and the Legal System: What constitutes criminal behavior, and how are criminals treated?

Foreign Relations: Does your country coexist well with its neighbors?

  • If not, why? What causes the tension?

Waging War: This is another area where we have to ask what their level of technology is. It is critical for you, as the author, to understand what weapons your characters will bring to the front. You must also know what the enemy will be packing. Do the research and choose weaponry that fits your established level of technology.

  • What kind of weaponry will they use?
  • How are they trained?
  • Who goes to battle? Men, women, or both?
  • How does social status affect your ability to gain rank in the military?

A common trope in fantasy is magic, which brings up the need to train magic-gifted people. Authors use everything from dumb luck and experimentation to apprenticing to sorcerers, to training by religious orders, and in the case of Harry Potter, a school of some sort. (Never fear, we’re going to build believable magic and future-tech systems next week.)

In many real-world historical societies, the Church/Temple is the governing power. The head of the religion is the ruler, and the higher one rises within the religious organization, the more power one has. The same is true of both universities and research facilities.

Power quote John AdamsPower in the hands of only a few people offers many opportunities for mayhem—followers may inadvertently create a situation where the leader believes they are anointed by the Supreme Deity. Even better, they may become the God-Emperor/Empress.

The same sort of God-complex occurs among academicians and scientists. Some people are prone to excess when presented with the opportunity to become all-powerful.

If you were unsure what your plot was before you got to this stage, now you might have a real villain, one presented to you by your society.

SO, in your world, what sort of society do you envision? How will that culture shape your characters?

Up Next: Magic and Future-tech

#NaNoPrep series to date:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building


Credits and Attributions:

Image: The Merry Company, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Dirck Hals 001.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Dirck_Hals_001.jpg&oldid=549782256 (accessed September 13, 2021).

Image: Henry VIII of England, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Portrait of King Henry VIII.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Portrait_of_King_Henry_VIII.jpg&oldid=250517909 (accessed September 13, 2021).

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#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

We are still working on creating the characters for our NaNoWriMo 2021 novels. Our plan is to have everything in place on November 1st to begin writing with all the prep work done. We intend to have the first draft of our novel written from beginning to end on November 30th.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_101When we commence writing on the 1st of November, we will know what has to happen at each point along the story arc, but we will have the freedom to “pants it” between each plot point. “Pantsing” is writer slang for “flying by the seat of your pants.” Hopefully, we will be able to write 1,667 words every day and meet our goal of a finished novel or 50,000 words at midnight on the 30th.

We are still working on our storyboard, and today we are fleshing out the sidekicks and other characters. To see how I do a storyboard, check out this post: #NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story? | Life in the Realm of Fantasy .

My main character, Ivan, has a complicated life. He is a husband and father, a master armorsmith, and a shaman. A fire-mage, he is a Sword of Aeos, dedicated to serving the people of Neveyah. He is secretly a Hunter of rogue-mages and mindbenders (empathically gifted healers who have gone rogue.)

Lee French, my co-municipal liaison here in the Olympia Region, suggests you identify what your main character wants. She says, “Everybody has goals, and so does your MC. They want things. Some goals are big and world-shaking. Other goals are small and personal. Some goals are easy and quick to achieve, others take months or years, or a 20-book series.

“For your MC, define at least three goals your character has at the start of the story, either knowingly or not. Big, small, easy, or hard, they need or want something, and that’s what will get your story rolling.”

These are some examples of goals that Lee suggests:

  1. Survive
  2. Make a friend
  3. Find love
  4. Kill the bad guy
  5. Escape a bad situation, like prison or an abusive relationship
  6. Find food and/or water
  7. Steal something specific
  8. Admit they have an addiction problem
  9. Take Thing X to Location Y
  10. Learn a specific skill
  11. Get a job
  12. Earn respect from Person A
  13. Acquire $Z
  14. Rescue or protect Person B
  15. Save the world

Any of the above goals can be the main driving force of a story, or they can be secondary goals that help determine how your MC pursues the primary objective (s).

My main character, Ivan, wants to eliminate the rogue-mage, save the people of Tribe Anendale, and get home to his children.

With Ivan’s goals identified, I move on to the others with a part in this story. I will add a little information to my storyboard every day as I think about it.

Who are Ivan’s side characters? As this is a book two, Ivan’s support group is established.

Kai is an earth-mage and a master mason, Ivan’s life-partner. Kai is tall, has brown hair, green eyes. He and Ivan’s father, an earth-mage named Aengus, have a quarry on the outskirts of Weiland. Aengus usually manages large building projects for the tribe, such as canals or fortifications, and Kai runs the quarry and builds the occasional home for community members as needed. They have four children. Ivan’s obligations as a shaman limit his free time, but he and Kai share parenting and homemaking duties.

The rest of Ivan’s family lives in the same row of five rowhouses, joined by a long porch. The family consists of his brother Aldric whose wife Marta is a water-mage and their three children. In the center house is their maternal grandfather, Benn, who cares for the children while the others work. Also living in their row of houses are his father, Aengus, and Jan, a master-smith and Ivan’s business partner (Aldric’s father-in-law). All but Benn are involved with hunting rogue-mages and mindbenders.

Nolin is the high elder of Anendale. He is tall, has dark skin, black curly hair, and dark brown eyes. He wants Ivan’s group to eliminate the rogue-mage and root out the dark god’s disciples.

Neveyah_storyboard_Characters_09112021LIRFEvery side character has hopes and wants something, so that will be noted.

But what of my antagonist? I’m plotting book two, so a new antagonist is required.

Coran Branson: Tribeless fire-mage, turned rogue. Follows Tauron the Bull God. Born into a poor woodcutter’s family in the Sherman Valley. Abusive father, weak mother. Warlord intent on carving his empire. He considers the tribes weak and rich, ripe for the pickings. Sees himself as an all-conquering emperor on a holy mission of pillage and plunder, a Genghis Khan but with fire magic.

Neeve: Tribeless healer, empathically gifted. Kidnapped in a raid on her village at the age of fourteen and forced to become Coran’s wife. Too cowed to disobey him, she never truly accepted the Bull God, but Coran has bound her to serve him with a geas she can’t break. Think Stockholm Syndrome.

Neveyah_storyboard_antagonist_LIRF09052021My antagonist will have trusted captains, who will carry out his orders. I just haven’t met them yet, and probably won’t until I begin plotting the antagonist’s arc of the story.

If you see something in your storyboard that no longer fits, don’t be afraid to modify it. While we are in the planning stage is a perfect time to do so.

I work back and forth, make changes, and adjust things as I go. That way, I’m not wasting writing time in November.

Now that we have a cast of characters, we will go back to looking at the world they inhabit and their place in that setting.

As Lee French regularly tells me, the process of planning involves making changes now, so we’re not making them while writing or in revision.

The #NaNoPrep series so far:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

 

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#NaNoPrep: Building Characters

If you have been following this series, you know that I rely heavily on a storyboard. If you are curious how I create this thing, you can find the first post here: #NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story? But don’t worry. The list of articles in this series is included at the bottom of this post.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_101We have opened the discussion on setting, and we will continue that later in this series. But today we are going to take an hour or so to build our main character. No matter how many primary or POV characters you have, pick the one you consider the most important or the main character. My protagonist is Ivan Aengusson. He is bonded (married) to Kai Ellison.

Who is this person? Start with the basics: race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, appearance/coloration.

Who are youRace: This is a post-apocalypse world. When the survivors were preparing to leave the catacombs, they divided into 50 tribes and blended the various races and ethnicities as evenly as possible to widen the gene pool. Everyone is of mixed-race heritage, regardless of outward coloring and appearance.

Appearance and coloration: Ivan is exceptionally tall, has red hair, brown eyes, and light coloring.

Ethnicity: Both Ivan and Kai were born into tribes that settled in the north.

Age: Ivan is 27, Kai is 29.

Gender/sexuality: This is important, as gender and sexuality play a role in my novel. A broad view of gender/sexuality is a fact of life in their culture. Ivan and Kai are life-partners. The elders of each tribe arrange co-parenting pairings for the purpose of childbearing based on how distantly a man and woman are related. This evolved as a way to prevent inbreeding because they were sprung from so few people. Regardless of who they share children with, people are free to live with the partner of their choice. These co-parenting contracts will be discussed when we get to the next stage of world building.

Lashei indicates those attracted to the same sex. Kai is lashei.

Non, those attracted to the opposite sex.

Bin, those who are both lashei and non. Ivan falls into this category. Non and bin are the most common sexual preferences.

Other-born, souls born into the wrong gender. Also, people with no interest in sex consider themselves other-born.

My co-Municipal Liaison, Lee French, suggests you write once sentence to describe them, and move on. I’m not good at one-sentence descriptions, sorry. A paragraph is more my style. I suggest you write what comes to mind, and you will fill it in later with the details.

Who is your main character in their ordinary life? Think about their job, hobbies, relationships, possessions, or anything else that defines who they are. This is how my storyboard looks:

Neveyah_storyboard_characters_LIRF09052021

I will fill it in with more information: Ivan is a shaman and fire-mage. From 5:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., he is a master armor smith. In tribal society, everyone who can lift a weapon is trained to fight and defend the community from predatory animals and tribeless raiders. Ivan’s grandfather cares for the children while Ivan and Kai work at their crafts. After the midday meal, Ivan and the other adults in the family train with their various apprentices and journeymen in weaponry and fighting for one hour. Afterward, Ivan may be called to act as a justicer, truth reading miscreants, usually ale-hounds whose love of ale has gotten out of hand.

Ivan, like all mages, is sworn to use his magic only in his craft and to serve the people of Neveyah, but (plot point) all members of Ivan’s family belong to a sect of sworn mages who secretly hunt rogue mages. He and Kai share four children.

These are the seeds of who my main character is. The page of my storyboard with the characters listed and what I know about them is growing.

powerwordsWordCloudLIRF06192021Next up, we will look closer at our characters and see who their companions are. Some of Ivan’s companions are already established as they were featured in last year’s NaNoWriMo novel. Others are new, and I need to understand who they are and how they fit into Ivan’s story.

#NaNoPrep series

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

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