4 Days to NaNoWriMo 2013: Secondary Characters

Cover of "Writing the Breakout Novel Work...

Cover of Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook

In order to make up for my lacking (read: non-existent) NaNoWriMo preparation, I’ve decided to pull a few exercises from Donald Maass’s book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook to apply to my story. Maybe they’ll inspire me. Or maybe they’ll ward off guilt for putting off preparation. Either way, I’ll post the exercises here each day from now until October 31st. Good luck in your preparation. May the words be with you.

Secondary Character Development

1. Pick a secondary character who aids your protagonist.
Ian Olmstead, Lieutenant in the Royal Guard and Liaison in the King’s Guard

2. Create an extra dimension: write down this character’s defining quality (how would others describe him?). Write down the opposite of that. Now create a paragraph in which this character demonstrates the opposite quality that you have identified.
Ian’s defining quality is his restlessness. He refuses to sit still or to be patient while waiting. Therefore the opposite of that would be patience and calm acceptance.

It took me a few seconds to pinpoint the snoring that had woken me from my light nap. Ian and I were the only ones in King’s Guard bunk room, but I’d never known Ian to sleep before an assignment. He usually worked on wearing a path in the concrete floor.
“Hey,” I said. “Are you sleeping?”
The snoring stopped. His dark shape on the top bunk across the room from mine shifted.
“I was,” he said. “Was being the key word.”
“Why?”
He put his hands behind his head and pointed one knee toward the ceiling before resting his other leg atop it. His breathing was slow, measured. Like a monk in prayer.
“Ian?”
“I heard you,” he said. “I’m getting my sleep now because there’s a 99% chance I’m not going to be getting much between now and the wedding.”
“You don’t sleep,” I said. “We don’t sleep. That’s Ace and Dustin. They’re the ones who take battlefield naps and sleep standing up.”
“I’m nothing like Dad.” He snorted. “But think about all of the incidents that have happened practically on top of each other. This is the first time in fifty years that there have been this many attacks on the monarchy. And who knows what’ll happen tomorrow. We can’t waste energy worrying or pacing. Something will happen when it’s damn well ready and not a minute ahead of schedule. So we might as well rest while we can. We won’t do His Majesty any good if we’re too tired when it hits the ceiling.
“Besides, you’re the one turning into your dad.”
“The day I turn into Ace and start dipping my muffins in coffee, you have my permission to lock me in the old holding cells,” I said. “Very philosophical, by the way.”
“Thank you. Go back to sleep.”

3. Create an inner conflict: Write down what this character most wants. Write down the opposite of that. How can this character want both things simultaneously? How can they be mutually exclusive?
Ian most wants to become a full-fledged member of the King’s Guard once a current member retires and sees his role as liaison as the way to get there. However, he doesn’t want to be seen as following in his father’s footsteps as his father did the same thing in order to become a member of the King’s Guard. He can want both as he desires the professional accomplishment of becoming a member of the King’s Guard (as it’s a very, very elite group of soldiers) while also not wanting to be seen as simply following the path paved by his father. He wants to be judged on his own merits. These can be exclusive as Ian cannot join the King’s Guard without his father’s shadow as his father is already within the unit. However, he can’t attain that level of accomplishment without joining and by doing all he can to avoid his father’s shadow.

Are you doing any writing exercises to get ready for NaNoWriMo? Do you focus on any specific aspect of your story?

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