The Process of Creating a Novel - Part 3

17/01/2020 06:26

In Part 2, I promised to look at how I get to know my characters, so here goes.

Like most things in my life, the simplest answer is, 'it depends'.  It depends on the character, how much time they spend in my head before, during, and after the writing process.  For Nano Nineteen, the main characters - Wyn and Tandi - actually spent quite a lot of time in my head, introducing themselves and small domestic moments from their lives together.  I pictured them both quite clearly, and I shared some very sweet moments with them.  I also began to understand how their experiences whilst they were apart had changed them, leaving them unrecognisable to each other when they were reunited.

These 'meetings' were all in my head, of course, usually while I was walking to and from work.  Living within walking distance of work is such a blessing!  I would play a scene out in my mind, refine it, tweak it, view it from different angles.  By the time November started, I felt I knew them quite well.

Perhaps that's why, when it came to the actual writing of Nano Nineteen, I hardly mentioned them at all!  Instead, I focussed on Lallaya/Shepherd, to the extent that my Beta reader thought they were the main character.  They were certainly the main character in terms of the political story, I suppose.  And it was important to know that there was enough in the political/geographic/'real world' story to provide a backdrop for Wyn and Tandi's personal story across 4 or 5 volumes.

Nano Nineteen was an experiment in many ways but my process for getting to know my characters is fairly well tried and tested.  As well as the 'getting to know the people in my head' process outlined above, I also use two other techniques.

The first is the 'Extremely Detailed Character Sheet' (EDCS), which really does do what it says on the tin.  It's great for making me really think about my characters from every angle - a 360 view, if you will.  I even found that I needed to add a couple of fields.  And naming the character's family generates even more characters for me to wrangle!  Also, in a story like this one where I'm creating the world as well as the characters, it gives me a start on the languages of the different countries through their naming conventions.

The second is the short story.  I'll take my character - or even more than one of them - and put them in a situation outside the main story.  In this case, I used what I'd put in the 'Earliest memory' or 'Favourite memory' sections as the basis, then wrote a 700-ish word story about it.  Like the EDCS itself, it gives me a different view of the characters and, if I'm really struggling for material, it gives me something to refer to as a flashback!

Well, I hope that's given you some ideas for getting to know your own characters.  And how getting to know your characters can help to flesh out the world they live in.

Next time, we'll move on to plotting!