Posts Tagged ‘character arc’ Archive

On Plotting (Downloadable Plotting Doc Attached!)

There are a thousand-and-one ways to plot. To write. To draft and edit and tell stories. I’ll be the first to jump on the no-way-is-the-right-way train, that all ways are valid. In fact, I’ll argue that the way I write now isn’t the way I’ve written before and is not the way I’ll write later. It will always be in flux, and I think this is healthy! It allows for growth and change.

Being aware of the above has meant that over the years, I read craft books and explored techniques on plotting (I’m a reformed pantser), and through it all I’ve taken notes to refer to later and to share with friends. A few weeks back while on a writing hiatus, I started to combine those notes into a Google Doc, which turned into a fill-in-the-blank doc for myself for future works, which turned into a question of, “Huh, why on earth don’t I make this available to others?”

So, if you’re curious about my process, please check it out! I would like to emphasize that nothing you see in it is set in stone. I’m not arguing that this is how you should plot or draft or edit, it’s simply a few things I like to keep in mind when I write. I’ve found that drafting often often includes the willingness to forget certain elements now, and the necessity of remembering them later. This doc is one way I’ll help myself to remember elements for later. I very much hope you find it helpful! Please feel free to download it and use it in whatever way you’d like.

Without further ado, here’s my Plotting Overview doc, as well as an EXAMPLE Plotting Overview doc of how one might use it (I’ve used the book example HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE).

Cheers for your writing! Whatever you’re working on, may the writing-gods provide you with a day of joy.

Character Psychology

Once upon a time, I was going to double major in psychology and political science (actually, once upon a time, I was going to double major in religion and political science. It didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t actually want to do any three of those, wipe my hands of the “double major” part, and graduate in three years with a mostly-useless degree in poli sci).

Anyway, my point isn’t that I jumped around in majors, but more that human psychology is fascinating. It’s multifaceted and confusing and full of twists and turns. One of my favorite classes from college, back in the day when I was still under the psychology-umbrella, was abnormal psych. A favorite phrase of our teacher’s was something along the lines of, “At the end of the semester, everyone is usually convinced they fall under at least three diagnosis.” Why? because we all have strange behaviors and we all have inner motivators that come out when we least expect them to.

Story is Conflict, and some of that conflict should come straight out of your main character’s psyche. No one wants to read about a perfect MC. We all have flaws, so we need to read about people who have flaws. We need characters who struggle, who have to dig deep inside themselves and face their inner demons to reach the resolution of the story. Hello character arc!

It’s pretty easy for me to say that and not always so easy to follow through with it in writing! A few tips:

Tip 1: Research
As I’ve spent time researching my current WIP (contemporary YA set in the Appalachians with the backdrop of a closed down mental institution), I’ve learned my way around the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and hot-damn does that make for some interesting reading. If a character in your book has a diagnosed disorder, research it. Talk to people who have that disorder. Talk to people who might be caretakers. Not everyone with a diagnosis will have the same experience. The more people you can connect with, the more you will be able to discover who your character really is and stop them from falling flat (this is a no caricature zone!).

Tip 2: Talk to a psychologist
Not joking in the slightest. Find a psychologist who would be willing to spend a few minutes talking about emotions and how they motivate people, about how a person’s past can influence their future, about how people can be transformed (and they should be–by the end of your book, your MC shouldn’t be the person they were when the story started). If you don’t have any psychologist connections, talk to your friends. Me? I recently shot off an email to a host of family and friends with questions on guilt as a motivator. I got back some incredible answers.

Tip 3: Dig deep
Don’t be afraid to ask dark questions of your characters and to treat them like real people. Everyone is three-dimensional, which means our characters should be too. No two people (even if they had the exact same past) would react to a situation in the same way. What is it that differentiates us? What is it that sits at our core that leads us to operate in the way we do? Don’t just skim the surface of your main character. Dig deep.

What are your character’s inner demons? What lays behind the scenes in their psyche?  What unknown/hidden motivators push them forward?

What techniques do you use when trying to get to the root of your MC’s motivations?