Camp NaNoWriMo: T-minus 18 days

Day 8: Creating Larger-Than-Life Qualities

Step 1: Write down the following:

What is one thing that your protagonist would never, ever say?

Lia would never, ever say that she hope the bad guys would succeed in taking over the city.

What is one thing that your protagonist would never, ever do?

Lia would never, ever walk away from someone who needed help.

What is the one thing that your protagonist would never, ever think?

Lia would never, ever think that she should leave her family to their own devices and live her own life.

Step 2: Find places in your story in which your protagonist must say, do, and think those very things. What are the circumstances? What are the consequences?

Say–Lia must say this when she’s facing resistance about her plan to defeat the bad guys. She loses confidence of several members of the group and this leads to her imprisonment.

Do–Lia must walk away from someone who needs help because she makes the decision that she can save more lives if she avoids this entanglement. This leads to the death of a character and results in the guilt at not helping that character.

Think–Lia thinks this after a particularly mischievous night out with her new friends and realizes how her life could be different if she didn’t constantly worry about her family. This creates a huge amount of guilt and causes her to recommit to her goal of finding them again.

Camp NaNoWriMo: T-minus 19 days

Day 7: Adding Subplots

Step 1: Who are your novel’s most important secondary characters?

Aimee Matthews, Michael Beauregard

Step 2: What is the main problem, conflict, or goal faced by each of these characters?

Aimee Matthews: To be accepted into the public health program at the city’s university so that she can follow her dream of helping people

Michael Beauregard: To compete for and be accepted into an internship program within the government and work with top law enforcement officials

Step 3: For each, what are three main steps leading to the solution to that problem, the resolution of that conflict, or the attainment of that goal? Another way to ask that is, what are three actions, events, or developments–with respect to those secondary characters–that you could not possibly leave out?

Aimee: Must convince her adviser to write a letter of recommendation, prepare for and have an interview with the admission counselor, and obsessively check her mailbox for a letter from the school

Michael: Must complete an obstacle course under a certain time, have an interview with the top brass, and complete a written tests on typical law enforcement interactions with civilians

 

Camp NaNoWriMo: T-minus 21 days

Day 5: Building Plot Layers

Step 1: What is the name of your protagonist?

Ophelia “Lia” Lawrence

Step 2: What is the overall problem that he must solve?

Lia must prevent the destruction of the city due to a surprise attack by the bad guys even though she’s part of the attack.

Step 3: What additional problems can she face? Not complications to the main problem but altogether different problems?

Lia fights back against bullies. Lia learns that there is a plot by the dissenting part of the government to spread rumors about the other faction and is involved in the plot against her will. Lia gets a crush on a guy who dislikes her because he sees her under the influence of the parasite. Lia rescues a stray animal.

Camp NaNoWriMo: T-minus 22 days

Day 4: Raising Public Stakes

Step 1: As briefly as possible, write down your novel’s overt and outward central conflict or problem.

The central problem in the novel is that the city is under attack from the bad guys and they probably won’t realize it until too late.

Step 2: What would make this problem worse? Write down as many reasons as you can.

The bad guys are hiding within the city’s government and suppressing any information about an attack. The unwilling parasite soldiers are unable to speak up. There is a division in the city’s government that has led to tension between supporters. The police/military is gradually being siphoned away from the city in order to help neighboring cities. The parasite soldiers are sabotaging the police/military. The city is having money issues.

Step 3: When you have run out of ideas, ask yourself, “What would make this problem even worse than that?”

The city is rebuilding from a recent attack on its defenses. The parasite soldiers insinuate themselves into positions across the city and are each given a plan of attack. There is one parasite soldier for every four citizens and each soldier has advanced military training. The bad guys within the government are sneaking top of the line firearms into secret storage with enough to arm the parasite soldiers twice over and are providing the parasite soldiers with more than enough devices to sabotage the entryways/exits to the city.

Step 4: When you have run out of steam, ask, “What are the circumstances under which my protagonist would actually fail to solve the problem?”

The city government doesn’t believe Lia when she tells them out the attack and is imprisoned during the attack. The other teens don’t believe her when she tells them she’s innocent even though she’s a parasite soldier. Lia is injured and unable to communicate a warning to the city government. The bad guys in the government remove Lia from the city before she can help the city government. Lia decides to keep her sister safe and return to her home with her sister rather than help the city. Lia’s parasite forces her to participate in the attack on the city. The parasite is removed from Lia, leaving her paralyzed and unable to help.

Step 5: Have your novel conclude with your protagonist’s failure. Can you pull some measure of happiness from this ending?

Lia joins the survivors as they leave the wreckage of the city and vow to help guard other cities from the bad guys. Lia understands how the parasite soldiers operate and so can add a lot to the knowledge base.

Camp NaNoWriMo: T-minus 23 days

Day 3: Defining Personal Stakes

Step 1: Write down the name of your protagonist.

Ophelia “Lia” Lawrence

Step 2: What is her main problem, conflict, goal, need, desire, yearning, or whatever is driving her through the story?

Lia’s main problem is that her body is being controlled by a parasite implanted by the bad guys.

Step 3: What could make this problem matter more? Write down as many new reasons as you can think of.

The parasite causes her to carry out acts of sabotage for the bad guys. The parasite begins to control her speech and actions more often and has the ability to control her at will during the daylight hours. She’s not able to mention the parasite or the bad guys to the good guys.

Step 4: When you run out of reasons, ask yourself what could make this problem matter even more than that.

The parasite forces her to cause substantial damage to the city’s resources. The parasite begins to sabotage the friendships that she has carefully created. The parasite doesn’t allow her to leave the city when she wants to return to her hometown. She learns that the bad guys have a mole in the city and can’t tell anyone. She realizes that there are others in the city who don’t realize that they’re being controlled by the parasite.

Step 5: When you run out of steam, ask yourself what could make this problem matter more than life itself?

The bad guys’ mole threatens to hurt/kill her sister if she sabotages the parasite’s work. The good guys realize that she’s a parasite controlled soldier for the bad guys and lock her up, ignoring her warnings about an impending attack. She learns that the only way to definitively stop the parasite from having control over her body is to physically remove it, an action that could potentially leave her paralyzed. The parasite needs to have a serum injected in order to continue working, and a new injection means the parasite is pretty much unstoppable.

Camp NaNoWriMo: T-minus 24 days

Another day, another writing exercise. And one day closer to Camp NaNo Day 1.

Day 2: Creating Inner Conflict

Step 1: Thinking about your protagonist in the novel as a whole, what is it that your protagonist most wants?

Lia wants her life to go back to normal. This means leaving the city where the parasite brought her and heading back to her hometown. While she knows that the town is probably still under control of the bad guys, but she wants to rejoin the resistance in order to make the bad guys pay for destroying her family’s stability and normalcy.

Step 2: Write down whatever is the opposite of that.

The opposite of Lia wanting to return to her life before the bad guys entered it is Lia wanting to keep living the life she has forged for herself in the new city. She wants to continue to be seen as her own person and to enjoy the independence that came with being alone.

Step 3: How can your protagonist want both of those things simultaneously? What would cause your protagonist to want them both? What steps would he actively take to pursue those conflicting desires?

Lia misses the security of her family life before the bad guys invaded her hometown. She also misses her family, especially because they were so close. Yet she also enjoys not being seen as the middle sister in the Lawrence family or being asked if she will take over her mother’s bustling private investigation business. She now makes her own choices about her career path. She feels guilty for enjoying herself when she doesn’t know what’s happening with her family. But she also believes that she won’t be moving forward in her life if she goes back to her hometown. She may not be able to make much of a difference.

In order to get back to her family, Lia would attempt to leave the city. She’d gather enough supplies, gather as much information about the trip as she could, and then head back to her hometown. In order to remain as her own person, she’d work to make a name for herself based on her own achievements and failings.

I know this has been posted a bit late, but better late than never.

Camp NaNoWriMo: T-minus 25 days

After a bit of preliminary work last night on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, I have a basic outline of the plot and a few general ideas for subplots. I also started naming characters since I have a bad habit of not having enough characters. I figure that if I start figuring out characters now, I won’t be creating characters at the very end of the novel and need to decide where the heck to put them in revision.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve posted this exercise before, but I think it’s important to do for every novel I write. So here’s to my first day of planning and plotting.

Day 1: Opening Extra Character Dimensions

Step 1: What is your protagonist’s defining quality; that is, how would anyone describe your protagonist? What trait is most prominent in his personality? What kind of person is she?

Ophelia “Lia” Lawrence is opinionated. She tends to ignore the more opinions of people, even those more experienced, in favor of her own ideas and plans. This is more out of inexperience than anything else.

Step 2: Objectively speaking, what is the opposite of that quality?

The opposite of being opinionated is relying on someone else to make decisions for her.

Step 3: Write a paragraph in which your protagonist actively demonstrates the opposite quality that you wrote down in step two.

I tucked my hands behind my head and stared up at the brown splotch on the ceiling tile that I felt sure was a water leak. The comforter bunched under my lower back, and dirt flaked onto the covers from the bottoms of my work boots. The gnawing discomfort in my stomach that used to make my hands shake now only surfaces as a brief hiccup. Maybe I’m getting used to the parasite having some control over me. That’s not a good sign.

1 Day to NaNoWriMo: Defining Personal Stakes

In just a few hours, the madness that is National Novel Writing Month will descend upon writers. I’m so not ready. Are you?

Defining Personal Stakes

1. Write down the name of your protagonist.
Danielle “Dani” Glasgow

2.  What is her main problem, conflict, goal, need, desire, yearning, or whatever is driving her through the story?
As the new King’s Shadow, Dani wants to prove that she is qualified for the position by discovering the person behind the most recent assassination attempts on the Royal Family.

3. What could make this problem matter more? 

  • The King–who is like family–is injured during an assassination attempt
  • Dani makes a mistake that lets a key witness escape
  • Ace tries to take Dani off the investigation because she lacks experience
  • Dani realizes that the Prince’s future in-laws and his future wife may be involved.

4. When you run out of reasons, ask yourself what could make this problem matter even more than that?

  • Ace is framed for the assassinations and is incarcerated 
  • The upcoming Royal Wedding and the media circus will give the assassin an opportune moment to strike
  • Dani realizes that the Prince is being poisoned

5. When you run out of steam, ask yourself what could make this problem matter more than life itself?

  • Dani becomes a target for the mercenary hired by the assassin

I’m really liking these exercises. I think I’m going to spend the next few hours doing as many as I can so that I’ll be a bit more prepared. 

Are you ready for tomorrow? 

2 Day to NaNoWriMo: Raising Public Stakes

One day to go. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to stay up to start at midnight. I’d like to, but I’m not sure the dogs would be so forgiving in the morning when they’re hungry for breakfast.

Raising Public Stakes

1. As briefly as possible, write down your novel’s overt and outward central conflict or problem.
A series of assassination attempts are carried out against the Royal Family, specifically targeting the King.

2. What would make this problem worse?

  • Member of the Royal Family is injured in the attacks
  • A member of the Royal Family is taken hostage
  • An assassin is loose in the palace
  • The upcoming Royal Wedding necessitates an openness that will give the assassin access to the Royal Family

3. When you have run out of ideas, ask yourself, “What would make this problem even worse than that?”

  • The assassin sabotages the Royal Guard’s attempt at solving the case
  • The Prince is poisoned
  • The Prince’s fiance appears to be involved
  • The capital city floods and the Royal Guard is put on disaster relief
  • Dani is alienated from Ian and loses her liaison to the King’s Guard and the Royal Guard
  • Dani breaks her ribs
  • Ian is shot, leaving the King’s Guard with only one active member plus the King’s Shadow
  • The assassin is a member of the Royal Guard
  • The assassin incapacitates Ace

4. When you have run out of steam, ask, “What are the circumstances under which my protagonist(s) would actually fail to solve the problem?”

  • Dani is unable to diffuse the situation because she’s tied up with the assassin
  • Dani follows the wrong lead and is elsewhere when the attack occurs
  • The assassin incapacitates Dani
  • Ace takes Dani off the case
  • Dani fails to discover who in the Royal Guard is working with the assassin
  • Dani fails to realize that the Prince is being poisoned, not just sick
  • Dani is injured while helping with the city disaster relief

The hardest part of this exercise was thinking about how things can always get worse. I’m not a huge fan of my stories not having a happy ending, but that’s not what makes a page turner. The protagonist must face roadblocks in every chapter. It needs to seem like she’ll never overcome everything in time to complete her mission. And I can’t be afraid of her failing. I have to make that a very real possibility. Once I get over old habits, I think this could get fun.

3 Days to NaNoWriMo 2013: Combining Roles

Two days to NaNoWriMo. I’m not panicking. Not yet, at least. Here’s another exercise from Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

Combining Roles

1. In two columns, list the following: (1) The names of all major, secondary, and minor characters. (2) The purpose of each in the story.

Character Purpose in story
Danielle Glasgow Protagonist
Ace Glasgow Support/Challenge protagonist
Dustin Olmstead Flesh out King’s Guard/Foil for Ian
Ian Olmstead Supports protagonist/Complication
Chris Guest Flesh out King’s Guard (Medical support)
Austin Woodward Complication
His Majesty Mycroft Woodward Special knowledge/Encourages protagonist
Her Majesty Karen Woodward Central to plot
Penelope Swift Antagonist
Anderson Swift Flesh out Swift family
Heather Swift Complication
Mercury Jackson Supports Antagonist/Complication

2. If you have ten or fewer characters, cross out the name of one. Delete him from the story. If you have more than ten characters, cross out the names of two.

Character Purpose in story
Danielle Glasgow Protagonist
Ace Glasgow Support/Challenge protagonist
Dustin Olmstead Flesh out King’s Guard/Foil for Ian
Ian Olmstead Supports protagonist/Complication
Chris Guest Flesh out King’s Guard (Medical support)
Austin Woodward Complication
His Majesty Mycroft Woodward Special knowledge/Encourages protagonist
Her Majesty Karen Woodward Central to plot
Penelope Swift Antagonist
Anderson Swift Flesh out Swift family
Heather Swift Complication
Mercury Jackson Supports Antagonist/Complication

3. Your cast list is now shorter by one or two, but there remain one or two functions to be served in the story. Assign those fuctions to one or more of the remaining characters.

Character Purpose in story
Danielle Glasgow Protagonist
Ace Glasgow Support/Challenge protagonist/Foil for Ian
Dustin Olmstead Flesh out King’s Guard/Foil for Ian
Ian Olmstead Supports protagonist/Complication
Chris Guest Flesh out King’s Guard (Medical support)
Austin Woodward Complication/Central to plot
His Majesty Mycroft Woodward Special knowledge/Encourages protagonist
Her Majesty Karen Woodward Central to plot
Penelope Swift Antagonist/Flesh out Swift Family
Anderson Swift Flesh out Swift family
Heather Swift Complication
Mercury Jackson Supports Antagonist/Complication

This exercise was really difficult. I’ve spent so much time with these characters and have always imagined them to be part of the plot. Heck, I can’t believe I crossed out Her Majesty Karen Woodward as her plot point was supposed to lead to revealing the antagonist. But maybe I can move that to Austin, making him an even more important character. I do like removing Ian’s father from the King’s Guard, adding stress of the unit being down a soldier, and allowing Ace to be Ian’s reminder of his father’s legacy. This gives Ace a bigger role apart from just serving as Dani’s foil and also shows the closeness of the families. I don’t know if I’ll keep these changes, but they’re growing on me.

Have you ever eliminated characters and then assigned their roles to others? How did it work out?