Yeah, yeah. I’m still playing catch-up. Whatever…
Okay, not whatever. This is technically my own challenge, but I’m trying to stay on top of it! I swear!
I guess one thing that I didn’t take into account is the fact that Writing Excuses really did design each of these prompts to be done over a period of several days, even a fully week. Three POV nice length scenes in one day is CRAZY. But so is writing a whole novel in 30 days.
This, when I listened to it after it came out, was one of my favourite episodes. It would be SO MUCH FUN to write a whole book in which the priveleged magical eliteists are taken down by the little man. That isn’t a copywritten idea, someone just do that!
When you set up your world, often you have a group of characters at the axis, these people having a certain desitiny and probably having a certain set of abilities or powers in order to put them at the center of the action. We unintentionally privledge those who have powers.
But what about the non-magical people? The everyman character that gets thrown into the scenario or the keeper of the inn? Do the Klingon hairdresser?
If you think about the way you view your own life, you are the hero of your own story. Is it so crazy to think that other people do the same thing? Everyone is the hero of their own story, until they meet the Jedi knight. Actually, they still think they are the hero of their own story, even after they meet the Jedi knight. Is the Jedi then a hero to them, or a villian?
One example of this that I love is the cabbage vendor from “The Last Airbender”. From his persepective, he’s probably the hero of a story where the pesky Avatar keeps coming in and destroying his cart. He has a try/fail cycle!
I like they point that they made about looking at the people who surround the magical 1% within your story. Not everyone can have magic or be special, otherwise it’s a very one tone world. So treat the world building like you treat your characters. Otherwise it will all be very one tone. That everyman character that you just decide to throw in could be the most beloved character in your story. The whole story could, in fact, be written from the persepective of someone who has no bearing whatsoever on the main action.
Think about the last time you lost at a game. What was the process of thought that led to your loss? Now, replicate that moment in the dramatic structure of the story, except the story isn’t about games.
They say in this episode (which is a wildcard, by the way!) that the prompt in question isn’t actually a prompt. It’s more of a story seed. So…
I’m skipping it.
I know! I know! This will make the whole thing 51 prompts instead of 52! But it’s my challenge and I’m making up the rules as I go along! So… I’ll save this one for later.
This was one of my downfalls in my first book.
They say in past episodes of Writing Excuses that your first story is crap and you should probably abandon it.
They are not wrong. My first story was AWFUL.
I had 27 characters, all of whom I wanted to be main characters, and whom I said were all main characters. In reality, I had two main characters, a BUNCH of secondary and tirtiary characters, and WAY TOO MANY spear holders.
What is a spear holder?
Mary defines your side characters thusly:
Secondary Characters are someone who has a specific role and even some lines.
Spear Holders are the people who follow around in the background and don’t say anything. They are simply scenery.
I love this definition, it really really works. This means that you can define and even sculpt each character to do eactly what you want them to do. There isn’t this muddying of the water with all these other names on the paper, which is what several people told me my first book was. They were all just names on the page and it was almost impossible to know what any of them wanted, other than to be there as support for the main character. I tried to fit in as many of my friends and inside jokes into the plot as possible and it was a MESS.
This is why it’s so important to spend some time with the characters and figure out why each of them are there. One of my favourite resources is this GIANT (and I do mean GIANT) questionare for writers. I found this a few months back and it is HUGELY helpful, especially in second drafts when I’m trying to sculpt characters from my main draft. If you want to check it out, go read it and the blog post that goes along with it here! This is actually a pretty helpful website and I use a few of their tools to get me going and keep me writing when I wouldn’t know what else to do.
The biggest thing on that questionare and in this podcast episode is to think about what your character wants. Motivation is a big step in fleshing out a character. That’s why the cliché is always an actor asking “but what is my character’s motivation?” If you’re asking this, as the writer, you’re on the right track.
But the character’s motivation cannot take over the main plot, it becomes part of why they act upon the main plot, but it cannot be the main plot. At least, not for a side character. And they can’t just be there to fall in love with your main character, they have to have more motivation than that.
They go into more about multiple characters and the cultures, but that mostly just applies to epic fantasty. I’m not writing one of those… well… not this month, at least.
Pick one of the dead-drop characters from the exercise two weeks ago, and turn them into a secondary character. Now take one of the characters with whom they interacted, and write the same scene again, but from this new character’s POV.
We just did this prompt, so this will be very fun.
Sandra leant against the ledge of the food truck, pencil in her hand, writing down the barely audible order from the man in front of her.
“So that’s a beef and kimchi with a water?” She tried to smile, she always tried to smile, no matter how surly the other face was.
The card proffered was sticky with… something. She preferred not to think about it. How many people touched their wallets or their credit cards in the bathroom? Which was more filthy? Credit or cash?
Probably not many people thought about currency in regards to how many germs were present. She probably shoudln’t worry about it, she thought to herself, shouldn’t let it become a “thing” like Shakti told her she always did.
A boy in line, two or three customers back, caught her eye. Normally people stared at their phone, talked to a friend standing next to them while on their phone, or squinted at the menu, sometimes while on their phone. He was doing none of these things. He doing none of these things; he was shifty, wearing a ball cap and scanning around him.
The blonde in front of her was trying to order.
“Sorry.” she shook her head and then plastered on a smile. “I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat it?” She kept smiling and took the blondes order. And the next customer, and the next. And here was the boy and he was smiling. She half expected him to pull a gun or a knife and demand all the money in the drawer. He didn’t. He was being polite, he said please and thank you, smiled, even left a generous tip. He smiled when he took his taiyaki and left without incident.
Sometimes you can be wrong about people, she thought to herself. And she went back to taking orders.