NaNoWriMo has arrived and I’m still in the midst of my pre-planning tasks (http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/6-tasks-youll-love-yourself-for-checking-off-your-nano-pre-writing-list/). It’s a good thing I’m not planning on producing 50,000 words of new text this year. Although, I got curious and did a breakdown on the amount of text that I’ve been spewing just by working my way through the various exercises. So far, I have devoted 384 words towards developing a story premise (Part 1), 2646 towards identifying plot holes (Part 2) and now 1309 (Part 3) towards character development. This gives me a total of 4339 words and I’m only on task three of six. Honestly, I’m just glad that I’m back to working on it. It’s given me plenty of ideas on restructuring the first part of the book, but I’m not going to touch any of that until I outline and write the scenes required to finish the story.
All of my featured images are free stock photos. This one is from https://stocksnap.io/.
Task #3: Do your Homework on your Characters
Part 1 Backstory
I was instructed to consider three interrelated questions.
- What events in the character’s past caused the Inciting Event?
- What shaped the character to make her respond to the Inciting Event as she does?
- What unresolved issues from her past can further complicate the spiral of events that result from the Inciting Event?
I guess this means that I need to know what is meant by the inciting event. I went back over the first two steps in the suggested planning process and didn’t come across a point where I was supposed to have that idea sketched out. This is okay. I am assuming that the inciting event means whatever pulls the protagonist into the story. (Spoiler alert! I skipped ahead and learned that the inciting event is actually discussed in detail in Task #5. Turns out I’m not alone in my confusion….) But returning to trying to hash out this idea on my own, let me think about the Star War example from Kate’s blog. In the case of Luke Skywalker, the inciting event would be his Uncle buying the droids. Or is the inciting event where the protagonist becomes committed to the story? For Luke, that would be the point of no return (when his home is burnt down and family killed). In the case of Persephone, the inciting event would be the job offer from Arch. And the events leading up to that would simply be Persephone’s career path. Her mother worked for Dete and gave her an ‘in’ for her first job. Her mother’s role as a good little secretary is what got Persephone interested in robbing corporate entities. This little snippet of background probably affects how Persephone interacts with other women. She subconsciously underestimates them perpetuating the sexism of the targets she likes to hit up. She’s bristly about gender roles, but at the same time curiously blind to her own prejudices. This could definitely lead to her underestimating Myra. Neither she nor Arch has a great family situation. I believe Persephone’s mother is deceased. Was it self-inflicted? I did a little writing that implied that her mother (like many people on the colony world) suffered from depression. I think Persephone’s dad is still kicking around. I don’t believe it was the guy at Dete though. I think the guy is a ecologist/biologist and the match was one of genuine affection. It didn’t work out due to mom’s issues. I think daddy could crop up in book two when they need to come up with an approach for creating a safe tech for escape purposes.
Part 2: Character interview
Where does she live? There’s only one city on the colony world. She lives there with everybody else. I suppose we could split hairs and say that she operates out of several apartments (one in the East Bay section of town) the other somewhere else. Should I sit down and work out a town map? I’ve been throwing out names for the dock regions and the city center is divided into districts (mostly based on the company compounds). I don’t know if I care enough to sketch it all out in nauseating detail.
What does she do? She steals things. Information mostly.
What does she know? I think I may need to dig in a little here. Her skill set is too vague (and she should be better at her job than my writing seems to indicate). I think I may need to add a scene at the beginning showing her being successful breaking into something. That way, when things go south on her job, it’ll look more like just bad circumstances instead of a poor performance on her part. She has excellent physical skills (jumping, running, flexibility, and martial arts skills), lock picking, con skills, programming, electronics. She also understands colony politics, knows who has power and how to lean on at least some of them.
How would she describe herself? Fast, thorough and sharp as a tack.
What does she believe in? Persephone would say that the only thing that she believes in is herself. She worships ethical professional behavior (client confidentiality, on time performance, and on time payment). At her core, she believes life is sacred (hence her reluctance to use violence). I need to highlight the fact that there are so few people on the colony (and the birth rate is so poor) that murder is a particularly heinous crime. Also, the aftereffects of the trade wars mean that the population is tired of violence.
What haunts her? Mommy issues. Gender issues. She fears looking weak.
5’ 2”. 110 lbs. Medium length blonde hair. Grey eyes. Heart-shaped face and dimples. Likes to wear skin-tight black latex (a la Black Widow) and uses her boobs to distract the unwary. Her mouth is the only feature that doesn’t match the “sexy ninja” look she’s been cultivating. She has thin pale lips. Doesn’t smile a lot.
There were additional headings for Characteristics (strengths, weaknesses, fears), Interests (favorite book, movie, music etc.) and Attitude (what makes her laugh, makes her angry etc.) as well as a list of 100+ interview questions to use to flesh out a given character. Hmmm….I feel like I have a pretty good handle on Persephone and Arch without having to know what kind of things they like to read. Mercifully, I was also instructed that a character’s backstory only matters insofar as it affects the main conflict. I think I have enough on both Persephone and Arch to inform their reactions. What I should be working on is coming up with a backstory for Myra (so that I can work her in as an antagonist). I need to know what Myra is trying to achieve and why. Way back in the first scene I tossed out the idea of the Church of the Stellar Ark just because I liked the name (and I was throwing in random flavor text in order to build up the setting). Also, it was an homage to Alistair Reynolds (think Redemption Ark) although my story sure ain’t Reynolds-esque. No matter. I’ve been wondering about COSA ever since I tossed out the name. It’s going to be their belief structure that motivates how Myra acts.