Skip to content

#FirstDraft Planning Days 7, 8, 9: Characters’ SHAPE and Writing the Opening Scene

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I’ve fallen a little behind this week—due to laziness and being “snowed-in” (don’t know if it counts when one works from home anyway, but everything here in Clarksville has been shut down since last Friday because of the six to eight inches of snow on the ground from two pretty major snow storms). So Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s story-prep (Days 7 and 8) comes from what was Day 7 in the FirstDraft60 process: Getting Your Characters into S.H.A.P.E.. Then, today (Day 9) is supposed to be a 1k1hr writing sprint in which I work on drafting an opening scene.

I’d planned to give each main character one day’s writing time—the Heroine on Day 7 and the Hero on Day 8. I did get the “S” done for the heroine yesterday, but then allowed myself to be distracted by a puppy who has discovered a love of playing in the snow that’s almost as tall as she is in temperatures well below freezing. And, really, since we rarely get snow like this in Tennessee that lasts as long as it has, I made an allowance for myself. But tonight I’m back to work, because, if nothing else, I need to firmly cement as a habit that from 7 to 8 PM daily, I will turn off all other distractions and spend time working on my writing project.

How do you S.H.A.P.E. a character?
As mentioned in the previous post on this topic:

This acrostic is something that I picked up at a retreat fifteen or twenty years ago, and I’ve taught it and used it with different groups many times since then. However, it’s only been in the last few years that I realized it would be great to help in developing/getting to know my fictional characters. It’s a great way to figure out who your characters are, which goes hand-in hand with figuring out their backstory, which we’ll be working on next week.

In other words, it’s a different way of creating a character chart/worksheet, but without feeling like it’s quite so clinical/structured or exhaustive (exhausting?) as most of those are.

As always, you can read the details of this task at last year’s post: #FirstDraft60 Day 7: Getting Your Characters into S.H.A.P.E.

Here’s the SHAPE chart for my heroine, Eleanor “Elle” Ransome:

Because I have built in extra time to the schedule this go-round, I’m not going to try to push myself to get James’s SHAPE chart finished today . . . especially since it did take my full hour of writing time to do Eleanor’s. And because I’ve yet to do the Day 9 task.

Day 9: Write an Opening Scene
This is not something that I built into the original FirstDraft process—and that is to take one day’s writing time each week during the prep month and actually spend it writing!

I do already have a head-start on this. Back before the holidays, on a day when my work computer took three or four hours to run updates and system checks, after I finished what work I could for the day, I pulled out a notebook and just started writing by hand.

It was the first writing I’d done in over a year, and it felt good. Even though my official one hour of writing-project time is up for today, before I go to bed tonight, I’m going to do a 1k1hr writing sprint and fulfill the Day 9 task to write (or continue writing) an opening scene and see how far I get!

How are you doing on your 2018 project goals?


If you’ve never done FirstDraft60 and want to try it, you can see the whole series at the #FirstDraft60 page linked in the header. The tasks do build on each other after the first several days, but you can move them around to best suit your style. Be sure to start with Day 1—Determining Your Commitment and Motivation with Guided Questions.

One Hour of Writing Time per Day
My one hour of writing time is scheduled for each day from 7 PM to 8 PM Central time. I’ll try to remember to send reminders on Twitter, followed by results afterward each day (after all, I do have time for social media scheduled both before and after the writing block).

If you’re playing along at home, you can join me at that time or set your own schedule for when you’ll be writing (or reading, if you’re not a writer!). Be sure to check in below in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook with your results!

  1. Friday, January 19, 2018 10:33 am

    New to your site, and it is full of such great information! Loving this #FirstDraft instruction and information. Thank you very much! I am 22K words into my first draft, and I am able to see the story set up through this perspective. Making my OneNote Book Bible today and filling in what I have with what you suggest! Tremendously helpful! – Kris

    Liked by 1 person

    • Friday, January 19, 2018 3:41 pm

      Welcome, Kris! So happy to know that you’re finding the site helpful. 😀



  1. #FirstDraft Planning Days 12 & 13: Visualizing with Pinterest, and Heroine Backstory |
  2. #FirstDraft Planning Day 14: Write the Hero’s Backstory |

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: