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#NaNoWriMo Prep: What Do You Already Know about Your Characters? | #amwriting #NaNo2018

Saturday, October 20, 2018

NaNoIn the next twelve days until November 1, it’s going to be important to be thinking about what we’re planning to write for our NaNo project—but if you’re following along with me for this prep, it’s also going to be important not to overthink it. I’ve already done a couple of First Draft in 60/90/120 Days in which I give detailed instructions for preplanning a novel project. We’re not going to go in depth with it this time.

Today’s Focus Is on Characters
Again, I’ve already filled in some stuff about my characters in my story bible, because this is a story I’ve tried writing before—and because these characters were introduced in other stories as secondary characters. And while I don’t want to get caught up in trying to plan out the minutia of every detail of the main characters’ lives, backstories, goals, motivations, etc., I do at least need to make notes on what I do already know about them.

For example:

I have this quick character info chart about Jenn already filled out from when I worked on this idea five years ago:

  • Full Name: Jennifer Mairee Guidry (middle name is mother’s first name)
  • Age: 39 (almost 40—story opens early September, birthday is September 18)
  • Height: 5’6″
  • Hair Color: Naturally, strawberry blonde. Has been dyed a dark mahogany brown when the book opens.
  • Eye Color: Hazel/pale green
  • Body type: She considers herself average, wearing a size 8/10 in most clothes. In Stand-In Groom, Anne thinks of her as a “skinny-minnie,” but Anne’s 5’11” and a size 18/20.
  • Distinguishing marks/features: Looks younger than her actual age. Narrow face. She thinks her long, narrow nose is too big, and her lips/mouth too small. High forehead (a “five-head”). Keeps her nails short and unpolished.
  • Scars/deformities: Hands bear the scars of nicks and burns from years of working as a chef in kitchens. Hands also tend to be dry, since she washes them so often when working in the kitchen.
  • Body art/piercings/modifications: Earlobes double pierced (almost never wears earrings, other than studs). Had a nose piercing as a young adult (in culinary school), but has let it grow closed.
  • Repetitive/habitual physical quirks: Has a hard time sitting still. Tends to be a little accident-prone outside of the kitchen.

As I think about my characters and story over the next not-quite-two-weeks, I know I’ll be revising/changing some of this—I’m going to bump her birthday later, as turning 40 will play a role in the character arc I currently have simmering for her in the back of my mind. And I know that some other things will come up and/or change as I write the story—my characters always have surprises for me!

For Clay, I don’t have the same kind of structured chart of information—just a list of things I know about him. And I’m going to leave it that way.

Assignment 1: Add whatever you already know about your main character(s) to your story bible. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it—just jot down notes of what you already have in mind or have already created.

Get to Know Your Characters Better
There are plenty of ways to do in-depth character development before starting a story. I’ve covered several here on the blog:

You can do any or all of these if you want to. I, personally, am planning to spend some time collecting images of the Real World Templates for my characters (they’re already cast, I just want more images for visual inspiration/writing prompts). And I’ll be doing some brainstorming and what-if-ing, focusing on what I’ve already figured out for Jenn’s character arc that will drive the plot of the story. I’m not going to make myself stick to any particular method above, and I’m not going to be filling out prescribed lists or questionnaires. (Though I may do the Four Character Building Questions.)

Assignment 2: Spend at least one hour brainstorming, free writing, character casting, profiling, or whatever method you like best to get to know your characters better than where you started with them today. If nothing else, at least figure out your characters’ names! 😉

  1. Saturday, October 20, 2018 10:43 am

    I’m usually a pantser and have never done any story planning beyond the absolute minimum – I look at things like this and am always impressed! I usually don’t know who my characters are or what the plot’s going to be until after I start just going for it, and sometimes I wish I could plan better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Saturday, October 20, 2018 7:47 pm

      It’s a little easier for me. Because I write romance, I already have a basic structure around which to build a story. And I have to know the two main characters—otherwise, with romance, there is no story to start with. If I know those two characters and can figure out how they meet, then I have something to get me started writing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. taylorsl83 permalink
    Friday, October 26, 2018 2:49 pm

    Finally got around to this and am realizing out of the 11 items you posted as knowing I only know 4 of them for each of my MC’s but fixing that right now! lol


    • Friday, October 26, 2018 4:34 pm

      Don’t obsess over it too much—your characters will reveal a lot to you as you write and they have to interact with others and react/respond to conflict. I just find I spend a lot less time spinning my writing wheels by getting stuck inside their heads as they reveal their backstory and details to me after I’ve already started the story. It’s less that has to be revised out later!



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