I put the bare bones of my characters in the Mini-bio and expand them in my notes and in the charts. It gives me a very advanced and well developed – I hope – character. It’s what works for me, I guess. Writers who want to be writers should not read many of those how-to books on writing, unless they keep in mind that what worked for that particular author may not work for them – that’s why there are so many of the how-to-write-books books out there. Find what works for you and use it, that’s what I say.
I create my characters using a character chart that I found on the Internet, Nancy Kress’ mini-bio form and I use Dramatica® to create an outline of my story that I, more or less, stick to. That works for me. It may not work for someone else. This past November, I used a program called Scrivener to write my NaNoWriMo project. I liked it. I took the output from Dramatica and put it into Scrivener. I had my outline there in front of me while I wrote the work. It made my life much easier. If you work from an outline, either print it out in advance or use something that lets you see it while you are writing the work. It helps enormously.
Not everyone likes to work from an outline; I sometimes have trouble with it myself. That’s how I end up getting lost. I lose the thread of the story. I lose sight of the story’s stated goal and sometimes end up with a completely different story. It’s ok when that happens, but more often than not, I end up with a mess and scrapping it. That’s not ok. Well it is, if I can salvage anything, but there is the wasted time and energy. I usually end up disappointed.
I use the outline as a kind of guide to keep me moving in the same direction. If I know where the end is, I can move in the general direction and get there without planning the entire route. Sometimes that works for me, sometimes I need to plan the route. Sometimes I make things more convoluted than they have to be. The story goal is A, so I work towards that. Sometimes I’m too direct and I go straight to A. then I have problems, there’s little or no conflict in the story, which can make it boring. I work best if I can work in the convolutions so that it still moves towards A but takes little side trips along the way. In short, outlining helps me to give my characters a bumpy ride, take them on side trips, and messing with their heads, all the while moving them towards their goal.
Writing is a process of trial and error. If something doesn’t work or it doesn’t feel natural to you – try something else. That’s all there is to it. Create your own. I find that have descriptions of the settings helps me to visualize them in my head while writing. I try to find a picture that closely approximates what I visualize and keep that handy. A lot of times, a map of an area can help, as can floor plans of houses, apartments, and other buildings can help as well.
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