I started writing Stay, my second work of fiction, almost two years ago. I decided to try a structured approach and used 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet as a guide. I think that ninety days to a first draft was unrealistic in my case since I like to sit back and think for a while at times, but I do think that I would have probably finished the first draft within six months had I not dropped the novel on and off over the past two years. The reason I bring up this book is because I’m using it again for my third novel. In particular, I find the first thirty-five days most helpful because that’s when the majority of the thinking about the characters and the story takes place. Once that’s out of the way, actually writing the story becomes easy. While Ms. Domet gives multiple ways of doing things, I’m going to present the ones I chose for myself. (I’m re-using parts of an old post here and if you’d like to read it, click here.)
Character Bio Sheets on Excel (cause I think that way)
- For each main character, fill out the following information: name; age; occupation; family members or significant others; personality traits; character history (where is s/he from); highest level of education; physical traits; biggest motivator; biggest fear; things s/he likes; things s/he dislikes; Where does s/he live?; What kind of music does s/he listen to?; What does s/he like about herself?; What does s/he dislike about herself?; What is her/his favorite childhood memory?; What is her/his most traumatic life event?; What is her/his most prized possession?; What kind of transportation does s/he use?; What is her/his favourite food?; What is the most interesting thing about this character?; What does this character’s voice sound like?; If limited to five words, which ones would most people who know this character use to describe her/him?
- For each minor character, fill out only name; age; occupation; brief physical description; brief history; relationship to main character(s); purpose in the scene; What does s/he reveal about the main character?
Answer the following questions about the major players regarding
- Motives: What does this character want most in the world? What obstacles, events, or people will stand in the way of getting what s/he wants?
- Setting: Where does this character live? What is her/his favourite place?
- Emotions: How each main character deals physically, verbally and internally with conflict by writing some tentative scenes.
- Point of View: By writing some short scenes, test various points of views and settle on the most effective one.
- Narrative Arc: Write down all conflicts culminating to plot points and divide them into Acts.
- Outline: Number each scene (on Excel for me, of course!), establish the setting, identify the characters, summarize the scene, describe the point of it and its relation to the previous scene and the overall story, the scene protagonist’s potential gain or loss, and spell out the conflict.