Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Indie Life: Fifteen Minute Break-Character Vitals

I am continuing with the next installation of my series, Fifteen Minute Break. Today, I want to talk about characters.

Fifteen minutes is more than enough time to create a character development sheet. A character development sheet is a form used to record the attributes about your characters. It covers everything from physical features to occupation to family, all your characters vitals. Vitals is a good way to think about what's on this sheet.

Think of the vitals taken at doctor visits. The information recorded on the sheet may be very brief but very important. There is no arbitrary questions, not even height and weight (by the way, these are important for medication and dosing). These things give a snapshot of you, the patient and guides the doctor through his decisions.

You're character development sheet does the same thing for your character. They help guild you as the writer to properly develop your characters. You may not have long answers, especially if you're working in fifteen minute increments, but all of the information is important. Let's take the example from above. Your character's height and weight are very important because it will govern how they act and respond to the events in your book. If you have a character who is going to fight the bad guy to the death, you need to make sure he's physically up to the challenge.

Feel free to download my character development sheet or create your own. Take fifteen minutes and fill one in for each character in your book, but minor characters might not need as much work as main characters. Also remember this is just a starting point. As you get into your book, you may realize that some of the attributes that you've given your character actually don't work. That's okay.  Make the changes on the sheet as you go.

Creating a character development sheet doesn't only help you shape your character, it can also be used when you begin the editing process. Your character development sheet will remind you that your character's eyes are brown, not blue. It will remind you of any habits that you've given your character and of their personality. By keeping this sheet nearby when your editing, you can ensure that your character stays consistent throughout the whole book.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Is Who I Am

On Monday, I hosted a post on my upcoming dive into NaNoWriMo. In it, I talked about how I've learned what kind of writer I am by doing this challenge almost every year since 2011. But as I thought about that post, I realized that I've also learned what kind of person I am. And it only took forty years! My musing about my life began with something very simple: I bought a small whiteboard for my refrigerator to keep track of my work schedule.

That whiteboard reveals a couple of truths about me. First and foremost, I don't have the greatest memory. As a matter of fact, my husband started managing my work schedule after I repeatedly went to work at the wrong time, sometimes late and once, a full hour early. So I started texting my work schedule to him and he posted where we both could see it on a notepad on the fridge.

Second truth the board reveals is I am an out of sight, out of mind kinda girl. If I don't have a very visual reminder, I will forget. I actually have a bigger whiteboard in another part of the house to remind me of all my writing and graphic design projects. That way I can see everything I need to do with a glance. Third truth is that I am a visual person. I need to see things and they stick in my mind better when I do.

These are truths that I know about myself. I've known them for years. The difference between now and then is that I have finally accepted them.

I used to hate that I needed all these reminders. I used to hate feeling like I was disorganized (and honestly, I am. My husband calls my life organized chaos). I had an idea of the person I wanted to be in my head and I never quite measured up. I would often say in my head, If I could just be more whatever like whoever. Sadly, the things I wanted to change about myself weren't bad or sin, they just were. Of course, I didn't see it that way. I couldn't accept that I'm a slightly disorganized person unless I strictly manage my time.

 But now, I recognize that this is who I am and instead of fighting against it, I need to learn to work with the person I am. With that acceptance, I've found that I far more organized that I've ever been and I have a lot less self-loathing. This who God created me to be and if I could have changed it, I would have before now.

This is who I am. I've accepted that and now I can move on.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ready, Set, NaNo!

This year will be the fifth year I’ve dived into the exciting waters of NaNoWriMo. I’ve won three of them, surpassing fifty thousand words. I quite excited about this year because I’m the most ready that I’ve ever been for NaNoWriMo. I have a good bit of my novel plotted, enough to get me started. I have great confidence that I’ll cross the finished line with an almost complete novel.

I never imagined that I would grow to love this challenge. The task seemed so daunting the first year I participating. Fifty thousand words seemed impossible, but I did it and I was hooked. Once I got past my initial fear of writing so many words in 30 days, I realized that NaNoWriMo has been a great way to develop as a writer.

I am not the same writer as I was in 2007. I shudder to think of how bad my writing must have been back then. NaNoWriMo has helped me improve my craft. When you write fifty thousand bad words, it’s easy to recognize when something is good. More valuable than improving my craft, I’ve figured out what kind of novelist I am. That alone is work all the effort.

As I NaNo’ed, I figured out my process. I figured out that I can’t work with a detailed outline of my novel ahead of time. I figured out that I must discover the plot as I write. That was a major revelation. I need to know my characters and their background, but during NaNoWriMo, I need to let them lose on the page and let them do what they do naturally.

Yes, I admit that this is not the ideal way for writers who want to move to a place of getting publishing contracts by synopsis only. I, however, cannot change my process. Heaven knows I tried. But each year, I find that I only need a general idea of the story before I get started. Having it all mapped out doesn’t work for me. I need to be engaged in the story just as my reader is, discovering the twists and turns as I go.

I think that’s the most valuable prize I will ever get from NaNoWriMo. Now that I know how I write, I can write all year round, discovering my stories as I go.