I have a page full of characters. I know their birth dates and their names. Now I need to make them interesting. Ack! (She runs screaming.)
I should note here that I am no expert. (Heh heh. Did I need to “note” that? Really?) I have one novel under my belt. It isn’t published, but it’s finished. Problem is, it took far too long to finish.
That said, as a newbie novelist, I’m relying mostly on intuition. When intuition says, “You’re stuck”, I turn and walk (or run) in another direction. This time, I ran to Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method.
Randy emphasizes the importance of design. His snowflake method answers the question, “How do you design a novel?” (Emphasis mine.)
Step 1) Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel.
He suggest limiting the one-sentence summary to fifteen words. Hmmm…sounds suspiciously like a premise. The kind we writers must compose to pitch our novel to editors and agents? Randy is suggesting we write the premise before we start writing the novel.
I decided to give it a shot and here’s what I came up with: A woman’s marriage is tested when an old boyfriend moves in for the week.
A little generic, but I decided it was good enough for now.
Step 2) Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel.
He suggests five sentences: one for the backdrop and story set up, one for each major crisis in the story (if following the three-act structure, you will have three major crisis points), and one for the ending. This paragraph can eventually become part of your proposal, or even your back cover copy.
Here’s what I came up with:
With her 30th birthday and her baby sister’s wedding just one week away, Dulcie Brannam’s best friend arrives on her doorstep holding hands with the boyfriend they traded back and forth in high school.
Yep. That’s it.
Notice where I got stuck? (Hint: The sentences pertaining to my story’s conflict.) I’m back to my original problem. My story idea doesn’t include enough conflict. Big problem. How can I write an interesting story about a bunch of characters who all get along? The answer is, I can’t.
I need to find the conflict. According to Randy, I need to find three major conflicts. Can I do it?