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Getting To Know You

As I’m sure you can see from my last post, NaNo was a total blast on all fronts.  I learned so much, not only about myself but about how I approach writing–as well as picking up a few useful techniques along the way.  My plan, which includes a host of other fun and events waiting in the wings (more on that later), is to share a few of these lessons with you in the next few weeks.

One of the biggest things I struggled with in NaNo–and one of the biggest surprises–was getting to the heart of the conflict between my two main characters, Daisy and her father Kodi.  This was a new experience for me.

As you may remember, I tested a new approach for NaNo: I pretended to be a pantser for thirty days, just to see how the other (better?) half lives.  In practical terms, this meant I didn’t do many of the preparatory activities usual to my plotter approach, such as character background sheets, bios, and conflict identification (where I strive to identify points of friction between my characters).

It really affected how I wrote, to a degree much greater than I would have ever imagined.  For my 50k words, I wrote nearly forty chapters in total.  Of those, about fifteen are unfinished–and almost all of those were Daisy/Kodi scenes.

Throughout NaNo month, I tried again and again to get Kodi and Daisy to interact in a way that felt right, that possessed some depth and/or purpose, but nothing ever gelled. (I wrote loads of scenes between ancillary characters, some of them pretty key to the main action of the story, and I am happy with those for the most part). Since the Daisy/Kodi tension was the primary conflict of my novel, I was and still am less than pleased with the current disposition of my work.

I have been slow to recognize the central cause of my main character conflict troubles, but I think I’ve finally hit on it:  If my characters are meeting for the first time on the page in the draft I’m writing at the moment, I’m gonna have a heck of time getting them to act like they’ve known each other for most of their lives.  Maybe that’s obvious or overly simple, but it’s a revelation to me.

Though I’d been thinking about Daisy and Kodi for almost a year, I’d not written anything down about them–and that made all the difference in the world.  Bottom line: I’m returning to my plotter ways, and one of the first things on my Daisy to-do list is to develop character profiles for Daisy, Kodi and a few other key players.

What about you?  How do you get to know your characters?  For NaNo participants, how are you going about “picking up the pieces” after November 30th?