Buckle up, friends. This is a long one. Mostly to help me remember/collect some tools I’ve found.
I find these tools for building character much more useful than things like “the character interview” — where you ask things about favorite colors or food or whatever — because really, who cares? Those things are just trivia. Just like your knowing that my favorite color is green or my favorite food is scallion pancakes* doesn’t mean that you actually understand anything about me.
Pieces of trivia don’t reveal character motivation and drive and desire and limitation,** which are the things you need to consider when figuring out what a character’s Problem is and what they’re Going to Do About It.
There’s more than one way to outline a story.
(TL;DR Story outline template at the end of this post!)
You’ll see a myriad of methods published all over the place about the best way to do it, but ultimately, the best method is just the one that you’ll use. That is, if you plan to outline at all – many people don’t and discovery write their way to success.
I haven’t done too much research into all the different methods, because I just latched on to the first one that I learned about (from Writing Excuses, natch), which is the Seven Point Story Structure a la Dan Wells (he originally got it from a role-playing book, but it’s now widely associated with him). The idea is that every story goes sequentially through the following seven points:
- Turn 1
- Pinch 1
- Pinch 2
- Turn 2
As part of NaNoPrep, I’ve been reading a few books on writing to refresh my conceptualizations of the essential elements of stories: structure, character, style, etc. It’s been highly gratifying so far to remind myself of the mechanics of writing, and it’s rebooted my brain a bit to read more critically as well. I generally find it rewarding to get into the nuts/bolts, nitty/gritty, guts of things, although sometimes I’ll do it to distraction as a way to procrastinate the actual doing of things. (Constant vigilance in the War of Art and all that.)
In addition to reading and brainstorming, I’ve also been working my way through season 10 of Writing Excuses. Writing Excuses is a bite-sized podcast (~15 minutes per ep, tagline: “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart”) that contains a lot of depth and a lot of insight.