October Challenges: #Writober and #OctPoWriMo

October is right around the corner which means some fun daily challenges I participate in are coming up. I hope you’ll join me.

Writober

Writober is a daily flash story challenge with image prompts. I set up the daily prompts on a pinterest board, so you can see them all at once and jump around if you would like. This year is #Writober 5. Feel free to look through all the #Writober boards if you are looking for creepy and scary inspiration. Pinterest has changed and will not let me rename the pins by day, so my link here is how you will know which picture I’m writing to each day.

This year, I’m planning my first science fiction novel for NaNoWriMo. In hope of truly understanding the future I’m creating for this novel, I am completely immersing myself in science fiction, so each of my flash fiction stories this month will hopefully have something to do with my future world (though a pretty scary and dark side of it). Thus, you may notice the images I have chosen somewhat more future horror than paranormal horror, or so I plan to interpret them.

OctPoWriMo

October Poetry Writing Month is a poetry writing challenge to write a poem each day in October. Prompts are provided each day at http://www.octpowrimo.com/

I will also still be working on NaNo Prep 101 which will continue up until Nov. 1.

NaNo Prep 101

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) usually starts on Nov. 1st for me, but this year I got my idea early, so I’m participating in NaNo Prep 101 Workshop. Each week has a specific writing focus. So far, we’ve looked at the story idea, and character. October, we will explore Plot/Outline, World Building, Organizing life for writing, and Time Management.

There is a Webcast: Writing with Abby Sher and Paola Mendoza on October 1st. I really enjoy NaNoWriMo write-ins. They always inspire me to write something interesting that works with my draft.

And two more weeks of the Writer’s Games.

October’s going to be busy, but it should be a lot of fun. I’ll be in the future. I hope you’ll join me.

What October challenges do you enjoy?

#NaNoPrep 101 Week Two – Creating Characters

Four characters sitting around a table: a teddy bear, a blue-faced woman, a woman in a wrestling mask and wood-sculpture faced man

This second week of NaNo Prep 101 is titled Create Complex, Believable Characters .

The exercise provided includes character questionnaires that you may find useful, but the final three questions are the most important:

  • Want
  • Need
  • Internal/External obstacles

Where I begin my characters

Weeks ago when I began the Writer In Motion Challenge, I talked about the Character Creation Spreadsheet I’ve created as a tool to spark my stories. Through my experience with quick-deadline short stories, especially participating in The Writer’s Games, I’ve learned that creating well-rounded, interesting characters inspires an interesting plot with conflict and purpose.

I am reading Mastering the Process by Elizabeth George and in Chapter 3 “Digging Deeper into Character” she gave me some ideas for new columns to my spreadsheet.

1. Core Need: This is the underlying motivation for everything the character does. The character may not be self-aware enough to know their core need, however, they will be by the end of the story. Elizabeth George gives some example of core needs as: approval, perfection, to be right, attention, etc.

I put the core need column right after the name columns in my spreadsheet and went searching for more (which reminds me, I need to add to my names columns. It may be time to weed out some over-used names as well). My search led to many articles of 6 core needs, 7 core needs, up to 10 (of course) human needs, but   I wasn’t attempting to dilute the idea to an easy list, so I have 31 so far and will keep adding.

2. Psychopathology or “Pathological maneuver”: Here’s where it gets fun. We all have moments where we are stunned by our own words and actions. We sit there asking ourselves, “Why did I do that?” Our actions are contrary to our needs and desires. Sometimes we even self-sabotage.

Elizabeth George calls these actions “pathological maneuvers.” In her list of these behaviors she includes: showering for hours, kleptomania, hoarding, and bullying. She also includes all manias and phobias, obsessions, and compulsions. In my column, which I put directly after the core needs column, I looked up lists of manias and phobias and will keep adding.

I already have a core fear and secondary fear column on my spreadsheet, but they are more about the underlying beliefs than the manifestations in actions. It will be interesting to see what comes to mind when the fears and behaviors collide.

With these two aspects of the character influencing thoughts and behaviors every scene will have an agenda and tension. I’m excited to try out these new additions to my Character Creation tool and see who is coming to play in my next story.

The Future and My Character Creation Spreadsheet

I started thinking about specific characters for my NaNoWriMo Novel and realized I needed a new Character Creation Spreadsheet. Naming trends will be different, as will occupations, hobbies, causes, maybe even fears. With those thoughts in mind, I decided to create a science-fiction-specific character creation spreadsheet.

Review of Character creation and development

Over the years I have collected many writing references and almost every one has a chapter or more on character creation and development. I thought this week would be a good time to review the materials I have and select exercises and ideas for this project.

Masterclass

I got myself a full-access pass to Masterclass.com in 2019 and really enjoy it. Each class comes with a workbook. I thought I would take a look through some of my favorites and see what they have to say about character.

Margaret Atwood had an interesting chart that she uses to reference her characters in time. The chart has the months on the left and blanks along the top for years. She begins by charting the character’s birthday. Then she charts dates of major events that influence that character.

Neil Gaiman likes to find his characters through listening, so his character development is about condensing speech and interviewing your characters.

David Mamet says there is no character, only actions. This idea correlates well with this video from Pixar in a box:

Joyce Carol Oates encourages getting to know your characters as if they are people you have met in real life. She says it’s important to choose characters who fascinate you. Write an exploration into why exactly they are so important / unique to your perspective.

Books

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer explores four main approaches to characterization:

  1. Obsessive Immersive – includes stream of consciousness to be fully inside the character as if living inside a brain
  2. Full (rounded) – interior thoughts and emotions, but the thoughts of the character do not define everything
  3. Partial – characters remain mysterious to some extent. Idiosyncratic/ Type driven.
  4. Flat – folk tales/ fairy tales. Archetypes existing on symbolic and literal level.

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass – The first twelve chapters are Character Development. Almost all of the exercises are about increasing stakes and conflict. Once I have created some characters to play with, exploring these exercises will definitely help me come up with some plot points.

Wired For Story by Lisa Cron focuses on the importance of the reader relating to the protagonist to have a visceral, emotional reaction to the story. What moves a story forward is the protagonist’s actions, reactions and decisions (agreeing with Mamet?). Character bios should concentrate on information relevant to your story.

Now Write! Screenwriting edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson – Anything that makes it easier for you to create your characters is a good tool. Explore the public, personal and private lives of your character. Find your character’s dramatic truth. Characters’ actions under duress demonstrate who they really are (this is sounding familiar).

To produce active characters ask:

  1. What does my character want?
  2. Why does s/he want it?
  3. Why can’t s/he get it?
  4. What does s/he need?

Identify protagonist’s inherent weakness that creates a psychological need. The inciting incident causes the protagonist to want something and take steps to get it. The action of the inciting incident reveals the protagonist’s weakness.

List physical, psychological and sociological aspects of your character. Use these aspects to create contradictions through contrasting details.

Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot by Arwen Lynch – The first chapter of the book is about using the court cards to answer some questions about your character. Chapter two explores your character in his/her ordinary world.

Youtube Videos

I made a creating characters collection of some videos I found on youtube

Pixar in a box collection has some videos on character

My Plan for this week

Last week I noticed that listing my plans for the week helped me see clear, actionable goals and get things done. I started reading comps, immersing myself in related, movies and shows, collecting futurist signals specific to my project and more.  This week I hope to create a cast of characters to start getting to know.  Here’s my plan:

Random Number Character Creation Spreadsheet: Once I have created my new sci-fi specific spreadsheet, I will use a random number generator to create characters to populate my future world.

Explore my characters with Tarot: I will use Lynch’s exercises to flesh out my characters further.

Fill in Character sheets in Scrivener including images: From my randomly generated characters, I will select my protagonist, antagonist and other main characters and fill in the rest of their Character sketch sheets. Once I have solidified some ideas about my characters, I’ll head over to my Pinterest board of possible characters and find images of how they look.

Free-write about characters: After I have a fuller picture of who my characters are, I’ll do some timed free-writes. First from my perspective. Then in their own voices.

Interview characters: I will look through my resources and collect questions that I think will help me get to know my characters better, trying to make them as story-specific as I can. Then I will imagine that I am having a conversation with my character, asking them the questions I’ve collected and writing down their answers, noting their physical reactions and body language.

During NaNoWriMo 2017 I wrote a blog post every day. One of the things I included was a section with questions to ask your character. Many of those questions came from the Great Questions List that is part of StoryCorps.org ‘s project to record humanity’s stories.

Physically act out walk, body movements, and voice of main characters: While reading Voice Acting by , I recorded myself reading the script to put yourself into your character. Like a meditation, it guides me into putting myself into my character and becoming them to explore how they sound, how they hold themselves as they speak because that influences how the voice sounds. Yesterday, while I was collecting Youtube videos about character, I found this video with a similar technique. (starting 14:40)

Start thinking about my characters’ actions and reactions in possible story scenarios and writing exercises from the Breakout Novel Workbook.

How do you create and develop your characters?

Do you have specific resources and tools you like to use?

Happy Reading and Writing!

#NaNoWriMo : Futurism & NaNo Prep 101

This year, I started thinking about my National Novel Writing Month novel early, so I’m participating in NaNo Prep 101. This will be my sixth NaNoWriMo and I’m going to attempt my first sci-fi novel.

This is the first week of NaNo Prep 101 “Develop a Story Idea You Are Passionate About.” My idea was inspired by something in the news which is the third suggestion in the week one exercise.

How I’m Prepping

Declaring

I focused my intention by heading over to my NaNoWriMo site and declaring my project. I came up with a name and they gave me a pretty cool basic cover. I’ll probably collage something later, but I’m happy for now.

Coursera

Because I want to create a realistic version of Earth in the future, I decided to take a look at what contemporary futurists are up to and I found a Coursera course to get me started. “Ready, Set, Future! Introduction to Futures Thinking” is part of a Futures Thinking Specialization offered by Institute For The Future. I’m already finding the resources helpful.

Scrivener

Last year I read some books on Scrivener to finally figure out more of its functions. I’ve been creating my own templates and think I have a pretty nice set up for this year’s novel.

In my Research section, I’m collecting articles and a list of books I would like to read before November. I created an idea section for my logline and dramatic question. I have my own character and settings templates and pages for different types of outlines: Hero’s Journey, Heroine’s Journey, Save the Cat, Three Act Structure, James Scott Bell’s Super Structure, and The Virgin’s Promise. As I figure out my main necessary scenes, I can see where they would fit in these different structures and play around with plot and structure at the same time.

Pinterest

I like to use Pinterest to create a mood board for my novel. I keep the board private and collect everything I think fits my aesthetic for setting, characters, tech and objects, any images that give me ideas for my novel.

Booklist

Today, I’m going to spend some time looking for comparable sci-fi novels, short-stories, films, podcasts, radio shows, etc. It will be nice to immerse myself in both genre and specific concepts before I start writing. I like Neil Gaiman’s concept of creating a compost heap of ideas and giving it time to break down into good soil to grow my novel.

Calendars and Planner

I like the cute Sticker calendar in the NaNo Flair. I’ve collected stickers since I was a little girl. Putting stickers on a calendar over my desk is a good idea for me, but that won’t leave room on the calendar for goals. Last year I created a daily planner for writers focused on submitting stories to literary journals. I’ll be re-vamping my fourth quarter pages to fit my goals for this year. I’ll try to predict which prompts will help me get the most words on the page each day. My planner pages also bring attention to eating well and exercise which is important during NaNoWriMo as well as evaluating what works and what doesn’t each day.

Timeline

I like to create a physical timeline for my story and put it up on the wall over my desk. Because I’m writing science-fiction this time, I might want two timelines: One for the major events between now and when the story events occur to explore what will be my characters’ history, and another that is the timeline of the novel. Once I have decided on the amount of time that the novel will encompass, I can start putting my scenes on post-its and play around with where they fit on the timeline and start exploring story arcs.

Write-Ins

Tomorrow is the first NaNo Prep Write-In (9-16-2020 1pm PDT). I’ve always enjoyed the NaNoWriMo Write-Ins and find that the prompts help me think of new ideas and get a lot of writing done.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m excited to be ahead of the game for once and spending quality time developing my idea before the writing begins. Who else is preparing for NaNoWriMo 2020? What tools and tricks do you like to use?

#WriterInMotion ~ Final Thoughts

WIM A Storys Journey Banner

I entered the Writer-In-Motion Challenge hoping to get some big break-through information from a professional editor. I wanted that sword that would cut down rejection and get me to YES!

Truth is, I got more than that. I got, “Wow, Maria, the voice in this is amazing!”

Voice. That magical, unteachable thing. That how do I get it, thing!

And then I got– Now take out a lot of it. You have to choose.

The fun part is, it made sense. It was not that hard to choose what to keep. I even asked my mom who never reads my blog and she and I agreed on the way to cut, but she still wanted the first one (blockade).

This story was huge. It could be a novel. I over-wrote, over-double-wrote, for the first time. I am usually concise in my writing, like the lyricist I am, but for some reason this image created a real idea on so many levels that I care about.

The original word-count cut wasn’t easy, but it was a great exercise and I think the final cuts I made, were personal experiments to see how people would react. I chopped in unnatural ways and my readers did not find them interesting or experimental. They were awkward. Something to think about for future awkward characters. I know how to make a reader uncomfortable.

Overall, I think I learned that having to prune so many words, I was able to get to what was necessary to the story.

Thank you again to my critique partners and editor for their time. And thank you Writer-in-Motion for the experience.