Monday, January 27, 2014

Blending Character and Story

I hope you enjoyed the blogs by my two friends, Deb Mullins and Jenna Kernan. I know I did! My revisions are in and a new set landed on my desk, but I'm feeling chatty, so let's keep going about characters.

The last time I posted, I spoke about how, basically, you should "interview" your characters for the job of filling the roles you need to have filled in your plot.

But what does that really mean?

Goals, motivations and conflicts drive story. They should provide all those moments of tension and surprise and overwhelm and desire (both sexual and goal-oriented) that make up your plot.

That means your character should have the kind of past that motivates his or her goals...and provides those necessary conflicts.

Once I've established the barebones of the plot...usually that involves knowing how I want the beginning to turn at the end of act 1, how I intend to keep the middle from sagging and how that middle becomes a black moment...Then I create characters who have the pasts necessary to play those roles.

Then I write a one or two-page overview of the story, including how the conflicts drive the plot. And
only then to I go to the storyboard. That's where the real magic happens.

Your goal is to take those very real characters you created and combine them with the plot in such a way that their movements...their steps on the journey...are organic.

Which, of course, means that the steps flow so well readers believe your characters are driving the plot and not being dragged by the plot.

The best way to do that is to not be married to specifics of the plot (certain things may have to happen but maybe not at the place you think they should), to create your characters as soon as you know enough about your plot to know what jobs your characters will have to do, and then to let your characters show you the organic steps they would make to tell the story you want told.

I consider writing a novel to be a back and forth exercise. You can't know your characters until you know what you're going to want them to do. But you can't pin them down too much or the story won't be organic.

The system almost seems haphazard and clumsy, but, trust me, when you start working back and forth and not trying to shove your characters into a story or force your characters to totally create the story, you'll see that it works.

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading

susan meier

No comments: