Showing posts with label Snowflake Method. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Snowflake Method. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wild and Free

I woke up this morning with an urgent need to write. Come on, I said to my muse, we have to keep working on the character charts. She crossed her arms high across her chest, sending bony shoulders up near her ears. Her little eyebrows furrowed and rose petal lips shot forward in a pout. I felt my resolve waiver. Well, I proposed, we could open that spreadsheet and continue plugging in the outline scenes. What do you say? My muse stomped her foot, hard. I sighed. What do you do when your muse is a petulant child who just wants to play?

I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to give in to her. What the hell? I'm not her parent, after all. Today I say, outline smoutline. Ya! shouts my muse. Spring is here. Too bad for you, Snowflake Method! Me and the writer chick are gonna have some fun. Ignore the schedule. Break some rules. See what we can get away with!

I hope you're embracing your inner petulant child today. Set your muse free! Write with wild abandon, I dare you. (Okay, Muse. That's quite enough. Save it for the book.)

Anyone else feeling wild and free today?

Photography copyrighted to Da Photo Guy

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?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No More Mumbling!

I'm deep in Step Five of the Snowflake Method, and I've had a revelation. Before I say what that revelation was, let me start by saying this: Even though the Snowflake Method is a very structured process for plotting my novel, there is a very real and necessary requirement for writing by-the-seat-of-my-pants.

Step Five asks me to "Take a day or two and write up a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters. These 'character synopses' should tell the story from the point of view of each character."

Here's my revelation: One reason my project stalled was I didn't know what was going on with my minor characters. I have two major players, Julie the protagonist and Ray the antagonist. The complete cast of major and minor characters includes nine personalities, five of which up to this point have been (patiently?) waiting in the wings to be called out on stage for the first time.

All this time, I've mulled over Julie and Ray's stories, what they want abstractly and concretely, their goals and the conflicts standing in their way. The ideas I have for the other characters were partially fleshed out, at best. I realized today how much this has contributed to my standstill.

Today, I was a full-fledged "pantser." I started with Providence Maiday, a character whose role in the plot I've vaguely known, though recognized for its importance. With no expectations I let my fingers fly. I wrote in her voice, explaining her part in the story as she sees it. I learned so much about her! An hour later, I had channeled four paragraphs about her life before her entrance in my novel, and found out what makes her tick. Then I moved on to the next character...

Story threads are emerging. Sub-plots are forming in my brain. Logic problems are working themselves out. It's exhilarating!

It was a lot like learning the real lyrics to La Bamba. I always sing that song when it comes on the radio. Its infectious melody and catchy tune suck me in every time. I sing the first two lines and then mumble the rest. And that's exactly what I've been doing with my novel!

I've been singing the two main characters and mumbling over the rest of the cast.

And that is why the Snowflake Method is working for me. It's given me the structure I need to focus my thinking, in a way I haven't been able to do on my own. My creative flow hasn't been dammed up -- just the opposite! Things are flowing again, filling up the dried creek beds and rushing toward the next bigger body of water. And, it's a lot of fun!

In honor of singing the whole song of my novel, I'll leave you with the actual words to La Bamba!

Para bailar La Bamba
Para bailar La Bamba
Se necessita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mi, para ti, ay arriba, ay arriba
Ay, arriba arriba
Por ti sere, por ti sere, por ti sere
Yo no soy marinero
Yo no soy marinero, soy capitan
Soy capitan, soy capitan
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba, bam
(repeat whole thing twice and toss in a guitar solo)

Have a Wonderful Weekend!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Snowflakes in Spring

I've plotted out short stories before writing them, and I've written stories by-the-seat-of-my-pants. The end results were the same, in that I was pleased with the success of the final drafts. I can't say for certain which method took me longer, since I never paid attention to timing.

With my novel-in-progress, I've tried both pantsing and plotting. Draft #1 was nineteen chapters of NaNoWriMo word vomit -- pantsing to the tenth power. Realizing I needed some structure to move forward, I attempted to construct some sort of outline from what I'd already written, taking into account the major character change I made to the protagonist which dictated scrapping half of her chapters, anyway. I had major breakthrough #1 the other day when I sat down with index cards, sketched already-written and new scenes, and put them in tentative chronological order. Then, major breakthrough #2 happened last night.

I was blog-hopping when I found the articles, but when I navigated away from the blog I couldn't remember where I'd been. [If I find you again, awesome blogger with the link, I'll definitely give you a big shout-out chez moi !]

I'd first read about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method after it came up in a regional meet-n-greet for NaNo participants. The funny thing about knowledge is the timing has to be right. At the time, all I had was a premise for a novel, and I was geared up to try the much-touted stream-of-consciousness writing embraced by NaNo. The Snowflake Method seemed complicated and tedious, and not for me.

Last night, I read through it again. Epiphany! Ingermanson's Snowflake Method is a ten step process in which you prepare your novel starting with a one sentence summary. Each step builds on that sentence, that summary, until by step ten you're ready to bang out your first draft.

Ingermanson's repeated disclaimer is that not all writers will be successful with the method. He says many "pantsers" will think the method too left-brained, that it dams up the creative flow. For a total right-brained writer like me, and where I am creatively right now, I think the method will provide exactly the kind of structure I crave. I've pantsed the plot for five months now, and I still don't know exactly what's going to happen by the end of the story.

I felt excited and inspired while reading through the article, and as of this morning, steps one and two are complete. I look forward to each step in the process, especially getting to writing the actual draft. Here's what Ingermanson says during his explanation of step ten:

"This stage is incredibly fun and exciting. I have heard many writers complain about how hard the first draft is. Invariably, they are seat-of-the-pants writers who have no clue what's coming next. Good grief! Life is too short to write like that! There is no reason to spend 500 hours writing a wandering first draft of your novel when you can write a solid one in 150. Counting the 100 hours it takes to do the design documents, you come out way ahead in time."


Have you tried the Snowflake Method before? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or are you like me and describe yourself as somewhere in the middle?