Day 4 of writing my novel in public
I’ve started something scary here on Medium. It’s something I’ve done before, but never in public. I have a process that I’m going to follow, and I’d like to share it with you.
If you want to follow the journey from the start, go here.
If you missed yesterday’s, you can find it here.
Day 4 — Main Character
Okay, so I have two guidebooks I’m using to keep my novel on track and refer to when I’m stuck. I know the genre I’m writing and have the mission for the book.
Today I’m going to focus on my main character. I’m not looking to create the full dossier on them today. After all, I’m only meeting them for the first time. Instead, I’m going to focus on some key questions:
- Are they an adult, a child or something else — an animal, an alien?
- How old are they?
- What are they passionate about?
In coming up with the answers to these questions, I’m going to think about the ideal reader I identified, which was my niece. What age would appeal to her, and what will interests does she have?
I’m going to give myself a 5 minute time-limit to come up with answers to these questions, just so I don’t procrastinate too long. I don’t need the ideal answers, and I may change my mind later. For the moment, I just need answers. Here goes.
My main character will be an 11-year-old boy.
He is passionate about baking.
Main character suitability
Yesterday I identified the mission for the main character. For my book that was to defeat a villain who uses smell as a weapon. I need the main character to be committed to completing this mission, but I need it to be difficult for him.
In order to create a strong narrative drive, I’m looking for a reason that ties him to the mission. Is there something that means he is well-suited to this mission?
But in order to create the narrative tension and the force that will cause him to change over the story, I also need the mission to test him to the max. Is there something that means that he is totally ill-suited to this mission?
I’m going to look at how this works in my two guidebooks, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.
Yesterday I identified the main character for each and their mission. Again I’m setting the timer, 10 minutes total for the two books, to explore how the main character in those books is both well-suited and ill-suited for the mission.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Edmund is well-suited to help Aslan kill the White Witch because he is clever and brave and learns about her weakness.
Edmund is ill-suited because he is selfish, greedy, and traitorous.
Ben is well-suited to help his granny steal the crown jewels because plumbing fascinates him and he is creative.
Ben is ill-suited because he thinks his granny is boring and doesn’t want to spend time with her.
My Main Character
Okay, so time to think about my 11-year-old boy who loves baking. How is he well-suited and ill-suited to defeating the villain who uses smell as a weapon?
I’m setting the timer for 5 minutes to come up with some answers.
He is well-suited to the mission because he can ‘see’ smells.
He is ill-suited to the mission because he is afraid to reveal that he is different, and so tries to hide his special ability.
I’m starting to see how the pieces could tie together — his ability to see smells will help him be a better baker. The villain uses smells as a weapon, whilst the main character uses them constructively.
The Light Triad
I’m going to explore the personality of the main character in my two guidebooks and then look at my main character.
I’m using ideas of personality that psychologists have identified as the Big 5 Model.
There is a lot to explore here, but I am still just meeting my main character for the first time, so I’m going to focus on the Light Triad, which comprises Kantianism, humanism and faith in humanity. I’ll start by looking at the main characters in my two guidebooks, then explore my own.
I’m looking at how the main characters in my two guidebooks score on the Light Triad. As these stories involve the main character changing, I’m going to look at where they start on these measures and where they end.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Edmund starts the story looking for what he can get from the others. He doesn’t want to be told what to do by Susan or Peter, and dismisses Lucy. He deceives the others by telling them Lucy is telling lies and does not reveal what he knows about the White Witch. By the end of the story, he has repaired his relationship with his siblings and reformed, becoming an honest knight.
The diagram below shows Edmund’s transformation on the Light Triad (my take on it, you might think differently). The dot represents where he starts and the arrowhead where he finishes.
Ben starts the story with reasonably good relationships with his parents and his grandma, but he pretends to like ballroom dancing to get out of seeing his granny. He suspects his parents’ motives and his grandma’s honesty after he finds jewels hidden in her kitchen. By the end of the story, his relationships with his parents and his granny have improved. He is more honest about his true interests and, due to seeing his granny in a new light, is more open to seeing the best in people.
The diagram below shows my take on Ben’s transformation on the Light Triad. The dot represents where he starts and the arrowhead where he finishes.
My main character Light Triad
Time to think about my main character’s change in the story. I’m going to think about how he is ill-suited to the mission and how the story might bring about a change in him.
I’m setting the timer for 5 minutes to place my character on the Light Triad at the start and where he moves to by the end of the story.
My main character’s relationships will start fairly middle of the road, neither particularly bad nor good. By the end, he will have revealed his special ability, which will mean he can be closer to the people he loves. He will need to lie and not reveal what he knows initially in order to cover up his special ability. As he himself is not being open, he suspects others of being dodgy. By the end, he will see that he can trust the people he loves.
The diagram below shows how, at the moment, I see my main character on the Light Triad. The dot represents where he starts and the arrowhead where he finishes.
End of Day 4 and I’ve learned more about my main character. I know he is an 11-year-old boy who loves baking. He can ‘see’ smells but hides his ability. I have plotted how he is going to transform on the Light Triad from the start to the end of the story.
Tomorrow I will meet my antagonist.
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If you want to try the process with me and write your own novel, I’d love to have you join me on this journey. Put in the comments on how you went with this step.