DMing Your Way Through Writing a Novel
Have you seen the leaves turning colors? Are you watching the skeletal branches appear against the horizon and crunching the carpet of dried leaves that have fallen to the ground? Are you enjoying the chill of the morning on your way to work? It can only mean one thing!
NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!
Yeah, as if November needed something else to make my life busier, I've decided that this is the year that I participate in National Novel Writing Month (as well as PaxUnplugged, Thanksgiving...).
I've also realized that while I can usually keep the plot in my head enough to get through one of my short stories, cranking out 50,000 words (or more, hopefully) requires more prep than I've usually put into my fiction writing. For the last week, I've allowed this obsession to drive my internet browsing habits. I've run Google and Bing searches on how to map out the plot, on character development, on web-based tools for writing. I've been watching Youtube videos about writing. I'm getting myself into that headspace and ready to conquer.
None of you will be surprised to find out that there are as many ways to layout plot and develop characters as there are writers. As with anything else you just have to find what works for you. And while looking at all of these methods, what I've realized is that my years of online RPGs have influenced how I approach my writing.
I prefer character-driven plot development.
The Dan Harmon Method
Chris Fox creates a number of really interesting videos on world development, novel writing, etc. One of the methods I considered using is the Dan Harmon method, and Chris does an excellent video on how this works. Take a moment to watch it, and consider following Chris on Youtube.
But ultimately, this was not the method that resonated with me. I can certainly see the appeal to it, it just lends itself towards episodic story in a way that I enjoy more with TV shows than in my novels. So I kept looking.
What Works for Me
What works for me is imagining each character in my novels as a character I would play in a game. Each one is given their own motivations, their own goals, and are trying to enact them simultaneously. Each character in my novel will just be a PC or NPC in the story, and thinking of it like that has helped me suddenly put together some interwoven plot threads.
For each of my characters, I'm answering some basic questions. Using TrueNovelist allows me to create an entry for each character (or more), which I'm using to hold these plot questions.
- What is the character's main goal?
- What are the consequences of failure to meet that goal?
- What are the prereqs to success?
- What forewarnings are in place to compel urgency?
- What is the cost for success?
- What are the pre-conditions that need to occur to enact a plan?
Thinking through each character plot in this way you get at least one scene per question for the character, and you can start thinking about other things. Like, If Silas has the main goal of rescuing the princess then I need to put in a character who has a goal directly against his. And oooh, maybe Lady Mirabelle has a goal that isn't against Silas, but they'll interact in some way that complicates the plot!
As a bonus, I found this blog post by Gabriela Pereira. Putting my scenes on a subway-style map has been a great boon for trying to plan the layout of the novel ahead of time.
Are You Writing?
Are you writing something? Are you joining in on NaNoWriMo? Then leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!