Here’s the deal: I’m a wantabe novelist.
Sadly, I’m not the only one. There’s like a hundred trillion (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) of us wantabes.
Do I have any skills that my hundred trillion competitors have? Probably not. Sure, I was a journalist for five years. I’ve got the basic writing process down. I can put sentences together to form coherent paragraphs (most of the time). I’ve always had a BIG imagination—I wrote my first love story in seventh grade. I read a lot. I belong to a writer’s group.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have two novels 75 percent complete. Are they good? Maybe. Good enough to get published? Probably not. Do I want to be published? You bet.
So I got a book to help improve my writing. There are several hundred books on “how to be a writer,” which by the way totally gives credence to my statement about there being a hundred trillion wantabes.
The Plot Thickens, written by literary agent Noah Lukeman, is supposed to teach “beginning and advanced writers how to implement the fundamentals of successful plot development, such as character building and heightened suspense and conflict. Writers will find it impossible to walk away from this invaluable guide—a veritable fiction-writing workshop—without boundless new ideas.”
For all my wantabe friends, I’m going to give The Plot Thickens a shot. I’ll post my progress here. If anyone cares, you’re welcome to follow along.
Wish me luck.
Chapter 1: Characterization
The first chapter is supposed to help you develop your main character. Lukeman gives the perspective author literally a thousand question to help you “know” the character like you know yourself. One small issue with my YA Fantasy Fiction…it has four main characters. I know, I know…I always bite off more than I can chew. So I’ll run through the exercises and give a quick summary of what I’m developing for each character.
Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time reading all the stuff written below. But maybe if you scan it, you’ll get an idea on how I’m working through Chapter 1.
Section 1: Appearance I
Face: High cheekbones, pointed features (nose, chin), thin lips, almond shaped jade green eyes, long eyelashes. Very fair skin. Hair: Dark Brown, thick, straight. Wears it pulled back, whatever’s convenient. Body: She’s short, about 5’2”. Small boned, but strong for her size. Still has “fat girl boobs.” Age: She’s 16 and she’s 25. (The story takes place during two different parts of her life). Other: Her nails are short. Long nails aren’t functional. She wears no make-up (at least not until later). Opinion of herself: Annie thinks she’s average looking, although she’s glad she lost all her prepubescent chub. Most people think she’s stunning. The contrast of very dark hair, fair skin and bright eyes is a rarity. Clothes: Functional. She doesn’t worry too much about fashion when she’s at home. Annie worries a lot more when people are staring at her (which happens a lot). She’s modest. Doesn’t like being on display. Grooming: She’s always clean. Her hair is heavy and hot, so she likes to wear it up. Body language: Never wants to be the center of attention. Is quiet, tries to keep to herself (unless she’s mad). She is graceful, but not necessarily sexy. Tends to run from trouble. Voice: Soft spoken unless she’s angry or with someone she’s very comfortable with. Has a musical laugh.
Face: Structurally, she and Annie look a lot alike. High cheekbones, pointed features (nose, chin). Emma has a wide mouth with moderately full lips. Her eyes look a lot like Annie’s except that they are a pale grey-blue. Fair skin. Hair: Average brown, waist-length and wavy. Loves to wear it down. It always looks freshly done. Body: She’s not tall, maybe 5’4”. She’s thin framed, long-legged, but not a strong or incredibly athletic person. She can ride a horse and dance at balls, but has never done anything more physical. Not a lot of muscle tone. Age: She’s 15 and looks it. Other: Her fingernails are always perfectly manicured. Her skin is very soft, well-cared for. Wears a little make-up (their version of mascara) but doesn’t need much. Opinion of herself: Emma’s confident in her appearance; a little more than warranted. Few people have as many resources to devote to their appearance as she does. Grooming: Always perfect. Stylishly dressed and coiffed. Has a hundred dresses. Body language: Is outwardly emotional. Folds her arms, stomps her foot, taps her toe. Can be sexy when she wants to. Voice: Chameleon. It depends on the situation. She’s commanding (most of the time) but can be whiney or seductive.
Face: Square face, square jaw, straight nose. He has prominent cheek bones that leave a little hollow under them. His eyes aren’t large, but his dark eyelashes frame them beautifully. Hazel, eyes with flecks of gold. Olive skin. Hair: Brown, but lightens in the sun. Very curly. Body: He’s 6’3” and all muscle. My husband would describe him as “super safety.” Broad shouldered, narrow hipped, strong legs. If there’s a muscle, he’s got it, but not in the scary body builder-way. He’s fast, agile, and well-trained. Age: He’s 18, but looks and acts a lot older. He has a lot of responsibility. Other: Mostly dressed in uniform. Takes care of himself. Opinion of Himself: Cael knows he’s hot and uses it as an asset. Grooming: Likes his hair longer, but cuts it short to please his mother. Always clean. Perfectly dressed for every situation. Body Language: Extremely confident. Attracts attention and likes it. Tends to clench his jaw when he is angry. Sticks his tongue in his bottom lip. Knows just want to do to have the upper hand in every situation (except with Annie). Voice: A military commander’s voice. Can yell when the situation demands it, but can also control with a whisper.
Face: Oval-ish shaped face. High forehead, arched dark eyebrows, super thick black eyelashes, deep dimples, and beautiful full lips, olive skin. Hair: Blonde, short, messy. An awesome contrast to his brown eyes. Body: He’s six-foot even. Not as muscled as Cael, but every muscle he has is super defined. Great shoulders and triceps. Perfect abs. Age: He’s barely 17. Other: Carries himself with confidence, has a definite swagger. Disdain for nobility. Opinion of himself: He figures he’s a decent looking guy, or he’d have more trouble attracting women. Makes Emma drool. Grooming: Likes to be clean. And clean shaven. Changes his shirt a lot. Likes his hair messy. Body Language: Acts more confident than he usually feels. Doesn’t like to be off balance, but it happens from time to time. Can tell a good story. Voice: Typical voice of a 17 year-old past puberty. Not as well-versed as Caellen.
What did I learn from writing down all this appearance-related stuff?
Not much. I’m pretty good with physical characterization. How can you write a book if you don’t know what your character looks like? I’d actually already completed this exercise for ALL of my characters.
Maybe tomorrow’s lesson, Appearance II, will be more valuable.