Okay, so I didn’t just work on plot this past week. First, I was super busy and didn’t get as near as much done as I should have, but I’m getting there! Mez and I need to have tea over skype and figure out where we both are.
Anyway, this past week, I finished up my character work. I love characters who change throughout the story. One of my favorites is the young girl named Chihiro in the movie Spirited Away.
She changes from a whiny coward to a brave girl who risks her live for her friends, someone you really root for. Think about your favorite books and movies, comparing how the protagonist acts in the beginning and how it differs from them in the end. Can your own character change throughout your novel? Going from weak to strong, mean to nice, arrogant to humble, selfish to selfless?
I decided my character, Blue, comes very close to hating her father for some of his past mistakes. He’s a different person now, but she still wants nothing to do with him. Too bad for her; I’m going to force her to make a decision to either contact him for help, or her life is going to go up in flames (possibly literally…mwahahaha!).
The next thing I worked on was my antagonist. Still working on that. It really really wants to be a secret society type of book, but I can’t figure out what the society’s purpose is. They have to go after Blue and her friends because of the cryptid (mythological animal like Bigfoot or Nessie) she has, but why on earth do they want it??? No clue. What is your character fighting against? A person, nature, society? What is it that’s between them and their goal, their happy ending? Chihiro is trapped in a spirit world, and if she doesn’t get her and her parents free, her parents, who have been turned into pigs, will be eaten! She’s fighting against the ruler of that world, someone with a lot more power than she will ever have.
And finally, I started on the plot. What starts off your story? What is that thing that changes your character’s normal life? Chihiro gets thrust into a spirit world unlike anything she has ever know. Harry Potter gets a strange letter. Bella Swan moves and meets Edward. Something happens out of the ordinary to get the story going. For me, Blue receives a present from her father. Normally, she would toss it, but because her friends are there and she doesn’t want to make a big deal about it, she opens it. Inside, she finds a strange egg which will hatch into a cryptid. And Blue’s life will get turned upside down.
So that’s the beginning. I like going to the ending next if you have an idea of where you are going with it. I like happy endings, so at the very least, I know Blue and Diego will be together, they will save the cryptid, and Blue’s father (still unnamed!) will be reconciled with his family. All pretty vague, but I know that’s where I want to end up. If you have no idea where you want to end up, no worries! Just jot down some ideas. What does a happy ending look like for you character? A bittersweet one? An unhappy one?
Then there is the middle. This is arguably the hardest part to write. There’s just so much of it! The middle is basically one long fight between the protagonist and the antagonist. It starts small and escalates quickly. But it is also about the protagonist fighting against herself. This is where that change comes in handy. Let’s look at Chihiro again! She starts out cowardly and she doesn’t want to do anything by herself or for things to change. So what happens? Her parents get turned into pigs and she is thrust into a strange world. She is now all alone. She then had a choice: get some courage, or get caught and have no chance to escape. In the beginning, Chihiro is only brave because someone tells her exactly what to do while someone else helps her. As the story goes on, she gets more and more independent and becoming more and more courageous to save her friends and her parents.
Then there are stories like Speak. Great book and great movie. Melinda is a high school student with a terrible secret. She becomes a loner, hardly ever speaking to anyone. The entire story is about how her inability to speak, to tell her secret, is destroying her. Her grades drop, her parents are frustrated, she is bullied, and one of her old friends is in danger because she won’t tell her secret. In the end, she has to make the decision to speak her secret and end the downward spiral.
One story the character gets stronger as her opposition gets stronger. In the other, the character fights to keep from changing, and this fight makes up the story.
I think that made more sense in my head…sorry!
I had no idea what the middle of my story was about, but once I decided Blue was going to have to make the decision to call her father, I started brainstorming ways to make her need to call her dad. Here’s what I came up with, verbatim from my notebook:
- to find out what the egg is he sent to her
- to find out what sort of creature it is when it hatched
- there’s someone following her
- someone asking questions about her father and gifts he gives her
- her room is broken into
- mom disappears or put into hospital (something to get her out of the way for rest of story)
- House burned down
- Blue almost kidnapped
- someone comes to her school
And I finally have an idea of what is going on. Maybe this won’t all happen, but it’s some interesting ideas to force Blue to realize she needs help.
How can you force your character to change? How can you make it escalate (from a simple present, to a house burning down). You don’t have to plan out every little thing, but imagine these ideas as dots. As you write, you will go from dot to dot. It will help you stay on track and give you some direction.
Okay, there it is! Sorry this got so long. Remember, 15 days left!! Here are some of the blogs we wrote earlier about this stuff, and some other people’s blogs about it.
Why Good vs Evil will never go out of fashion in Kids’ Lit
Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: plotter or ‘pantster’?
To Plot or Not
#NaNoPrep Week 2: Be a Planster
How to Build Tension and Heighten the Stakes
6 Ways to Write Better Bad Guys
Two weeks left! Time for us all to really buckle down!! Good luck, fellow writers.