Tag Archives: preparing for NaNoWriMo

#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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