Characters and Mistakes
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
The first week of writing is over and I am here to report: It actually went really well. I wrote more than I'd planned to write which is excellent, especially since I made a terrible mistake. I went back and read everything I'd written. And let me tell you, It Is Pure Shit. I know, I know, it's a first draft. They're supposed to be garbage, but still. It's downright painful.
It's been a while since I've really tried to complete a book and started with a fresh idea so I am remembering/learning all these unpleasant things about myself.
1) I am a massive underwriter. With the exception of main character descriptions, I do the bare minimum in my first draft. I'm remembering now why I have so many description and emotion reference books - it's because I suck at them.
2) When I go back and read what I'm writing while still writing, I hate myself and die a little inside. Pretty sure doing this is why I quit my writing projects so often. I'm cool to give the chapter I've just written a once-over, but I went back to the very first chapter and read to where I am currently writing. Lord, it sucked. My character voice has now been found, but it definitely took a few chapters to get into it, so BAM my mind is already trying to throw me into revision mode.
3) During revisions I've never changed a chapter's POV and I think that's stupid. I recently read a book, I can't for the life of me remember the name, but it was talking about rewriting chapters that aren't working in a different POV. It wasn't a new idea, plenty of books on writing suggest such a thing. But for some reason this is the first time I've really heard it. I'm suddenly seeing places in my story that could be shown better with a different POV. I feel both excited to be seeing this since it means I am improving as a writer, but also a little discouraged since it means more work in revisions.
But like I said, overall this week went really well. I wrote just under 13,000 words and thirteen chapters, deciding that chapter fourteen was better combined into chapter thirteen. I only planned to complete seven chapters. MAJOR WIN. The book/novella was slotted to have forty chapters, but now we're down to thirty-nine and I imagine that number will drop since a lot of them aren't really chapters and are more singular scenes that I haven't figured out how to transition in and out of yet.
The biggest struggle this week, other than my massive mistake at the end, has been my brain. I am restarting medication right now after a bout of mania and trying to find the right dosage and mix. Some of these meds make it very difficult to concentrate on a single thing for an extended period of time. Thankfully, I think I just figured out which medication was doing it because when I upped my dose as planned this morning I turned into an anxious, jittery mess. Food helped, but I will definitely be speaking to my doctor about it next week. It's no major set back and I'm super proud of myself for forcing my brain to focus when it really doesn't want to.
So, that is my update on how the process is going as of now.
Throughout the week I was thinking about this post and I wanted to include something more than just an update because that's fairly boring. I landed on discussing how I developed my characters since that's pretty fresh in my mind right now and after working with my sheets this is the best I think I've ever felt about who these people are. I know them backwards and forwards mentally and that is a great feeling. I'll admit I don't always remember their favorite color or what kind of shoes they prefer, but I know their minds and their actions.
I started with their wants, needs, and goals. Basically their character arc. For the whole series, I determined where my characters were, what needed to change, and who could help them change it. It's a romance series so having a counter/compliment to the characters arc is pretty vital. I wanted my lovers to provide what the other needed, but also to create issues. That arc gave me the first glimpse of what might have happened to them to make them feel this way and need these things.
Then I chose their verb, tactics, and void. I highly recommend the book Verbalize by Damon Suede. I have a link to it under my Awesome Shit I Love section. In the book he talks about how everyone is a verb, an action, and those actions define how the characters behave and react. I am seriously in love with this method. In a way, you are probably doing something similar, but in his companion book Action, Mr. Suede lists out the tactics or other actions that fall under that major verb/action. THEN he goes on to explain the void. It's kind of like the backstory, but is directly related to why they are the verb they are. I love writing with this as a guide. For each chapter or scene I've been able to focus on one or two tactics per character and write with that in mind. It has been an amazing experience thus far and I've discovered that doing so keeps my character's personality at the front of my mind and I'm not going off on tangents that aren't like them at all.
After all that, I worked out how they looked, sounded, and smelled. I finalized their wants, needs, goals, and how they adapt. I settled on their backstory, job, lifestyle, skills, quirks, and handicaps. But something was missing. I knew what they did, but I felt like I needed a bit more to their personality to really get a feel for who these people are.
That's where enneagrams came in. In the past, I have developed characters using only an enneagram, the wing, and the fears. It never felt like enough. But combining all that with the actions rocked my world. Enneagrams brought the whole thing together into one glorious package. There are a lot of books out there on enneagrams and I haven't really found one that I think killed it. Honestly, there's just so much. Some of the best information I found was by searching the web. I will warn you, digging into your own enneagram can be an eye opening process and not necessarily a pleasant one. (I'm very much a 6)
To wrap it all up, I chose their love language, a handful of bonus positive and negative traits, their favorites, what they drive, some basic emotional expressions specific to them, and that was it. I made my own worksheets and I think they are pretty perfect, but I robbed like crazy from other people so I don't think I can share them. I told you everything I did anyway so you can add whatever to your own sheets.
So that's my post for the week. Last week I said no more monster posts, but here we are. This was only the second week of this massive process and there is still so much to do, but overall I am feeling good about it. I'll let you know next week if the momentum holds!