Saturday, April 3, 2010

You can't quit, you're FIRED!

The characters I cast in my novel aren't who I thought they were. I don't know why I'm so surprised. Anytime I meet someone for the first time, the new acquaintance smiles a lot, flatters me with complimentary politeness, chooses her words carefully. I do the same thing. It's only through subsequent meetings, time spent hanging out together, that guarded moments give way to natural reactions, and the façade begins to crumble.

In the time I've hung out with my characters this week, they have begun to shown me their authentic selves. I learned the antagonist has a lifelong fascination for electroshock weaponry. And here, I thought fire was his thing. Another character informed me I had it all wrong, that he never wanted to marry his fiancée. One character up and altogether quit the project! And an Asian dude I'd pegged from the start as a wicked man turned out to be a student and a young fellow of incredible honor. It's a shame what's going to happen to him. However, it was only when he revealed himself to me that the big climactic scene -- the one I just couldn't figure out for weeks and weeks and weeks -- finally played out in my mind. Maybe I'll make it up to him by mentioning him in the book's dedication blurb...

So, I made my first self-imposed deadline: Step Six of the Snowflake Method is complete, on time today, April 3.

The steps in this method of plotting a novel are extremely well designed. For example, in Step Five I wrote a one-page narration of each major character and a half-page narration of each minor character. The exercise was to write in first person from the POV of that character, letting him or her explain his or her role in the book (relationship to other characters, goals, motivations, etc.) Then this week, in Step Six, I expanded the one-page plot synopsis of the novel I wrote for Step Four to a four-page synopsis. Today I begin Step Seven which shifts focus back to the characters and asks me to create detailed character charts for each character. It's brilliant, because I know so much more about the characters after working through Step Six, including how wrong some of my original interpretations of the characters were. I'm excited to dive into this exercise and fully flesh these people out.

Snowflake Method author Randy Ingermanson says in Step Seven notes: "You will probably go back and revise steps (1-6) as your characters become "real" to you and begin making petulant demands on the story. This is good -- great fiction is character-driven. Take as much time as you need to do this, because you're just saving time downstream."

Blogger Jana Hutcheson @ All I'm Saying... wrote a wonderful post last Wednesday about interviewing characters as a technique for figuring out what makes them tick. She included several excellent website links with character interview questionnaires to use. Check it out by clicking HERE. [Jana is new to Blogger this year. While you're there, why not sign on as a follower? (*smile*)]

How do you get to know your characters? Have you ever interviewed them? Have your ever had a character quit your novel?