*This post contains an affiliate link. In plain English, that means that I may receive a small commission if you purchase something through the link provided.*
September is here! At long last! We’re coming on to my favorite time of year – autumn. Well, technically from autumn to the end of the year, but this is where it begins. I love the colors, the crisp air that invigorates as it fills your lungs, the hoodies and jeans, hot chocolate… it’s all so wonderful!
For many of us writers, September also brings the “official” NaNoWriMo prep season.
In the twelve years I’ve participated in this mad adventure to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days, I’ve only ever “won” once. This year feels somehow different for me. I’m more excited about my novel than in years past; I’ve dreamed of publishing a novel, but haven’t made much effort. But this year it feels possible. I just have to keep preparing and plotting and building.
Fleshing out characters has always been a big weakness of mine. In years past, a good chunk of my writing was fan fiction, where I dealt with characters that already existed; so I never worried about it.
But then one day, while browsing through the “Adopt a [x]” forums on the NaNoWriMo website back in February or March, I came across a series of titles up for “adoption” (meaning that someone else had shared title suggestions, probably because they weren’t going to use the titles themselves): If the Shoe Fits, If the Dress Fits, and If the Crown Fits. I fell in love with those titles and knew I had to write the stories! But I didn’t want to take the fantasy route. Instead, my mind went toward YA sci-fi. I also wanted them loosely inspired by the Cinderella story (after all, isn’t that where the phrase itself was inspired? Wait… is it? I don’t actually know…) and to follow the girl as she learns certain royal duties she didn’t expect to have to learn while protecting the real princess. She also has a genetically-inherited energy power that she tries to keep hidden because of something that happened several generations ago.
But I didn’t know anything else about her beyond that. I’d tried to fill out one of those thousands of character charts that exist on the internet for my first attempt at writing her story during Camp NaNoWriMo in April. Big fail there. Sure, a few details got filled in, but that just didn’t make her real to me.
Then I (re)discovered the Shadow Room exercise in Holly Lisle’s Create A Character Clinic and sat down to work on it. I’d expected to work on this character, whoever she is, but that is not who appeared first. A man showed up, a soldier, with a big secret and a betrayal weighing him down. Now where do I go with that? But after (I’ll admit) months of doing nothing with him, I decided to set him aside and try to see where I could go with the girl.
When she showed up and talked with me, I realized that this version of her had already gone through most of whatever I was going to put her through in this first book and I was interviewing her near what will probably be the climax of the book. (The soldier, on the other hand, I believe comes in much earlier.) Another thing that surprised me was that she named the princess–Allie (which I later discovered was short for Alexandrina)–when I hadn’t even tried to come up with a name yet–and I love browsing baby name websites for just the right name.
Well, after that, I had to find out who this princess Allie was. She showed up for the interview even further along the story than the main character (who still doesn’t have a name herself) where there’s even more of a hurry for things to happen. Actually, as I type this, I wonder if what she told me might be happening in book 2. And Allie gave me two more names to discover–Rand and Roxie. Now Rand could possibly be the soldier (it could be short for Randall, which means “shield wolf”), but Roxie… It’s not my main character’s name, so she might be another gifted girl that’s in the guard protecting Allie.
My first three characters (R to L): the soldier, the FMC, and the princess
Though I’m not very far along in the creation process, I highly recommend taking this class. (You can click on the link above, or the one in the sidebar.) I can’t wait to see where these characters lead me, especially as I continue preparations for NaNoWriMo 2018. I’m preparing a little differently than I have in years past, so I feel so much more confident that I just might hit that 50,000-word mark this year!