I’ve Got Characters, Now What?

NaNoWriMo Blog #2

National Novel Writing Month: write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Can’t start my day off without coffee!

Good morning!

I hear later today it’s supposed to get stormy, the perfect weather to hunker down and read!

So get yourself a nice cozy spot, a snack or drink, and let’s lose ourselves in story.

Photo by Daniela Constantini on Pexels.com

Okay so where we left off.

We have characters for our version of the Little Mermaid tale. If you haven’t read that blog yet, you can check it out here.

Today we will be tackling a few things, including outlining, but before we get to that, we should discuss The Villain.

(Cue dramatic music)

The Antagonist

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I didn’t go into detail about the antagonist yet, though they are potentially the second most important character.

Unless I already have a distinct vision for the “bad guy”, it can be fun to come up with the villain’s motivations during the outlining stage, that way we can use their actions to drive the story’s events.

Illustrated by Ivan Bilibin

In the original The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, the Sea Witch is given only a small part. She is described in manner and appearance as being “ugly”, the personification of all the things society (or the author) despised at the time.

In the middle of this clearing was a house built of the bones of shipwrecked men, and there sat the sea witch, letting a toad eat out of her mouth just as we might feed sugar to a little canary bird. She called the ugly fat water snakes her little chickabiddies, and let them crawl and sprawl about on her spongy bosom.

Author Hans Christian Andersen

So, how can we play with this character idea and make it fun?

If we changed the mermaid to a male Orcaman, maybe we should change the sea witch as well?

First, what sense should Orcaman lose?

I know technically talking isn’t one of the 5 senses lol bear with me here.

What if, instead of losing the ability to speak, what if he loses his sense of taste?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

You have no idea how horribly inconvenient that can be… especially if your love interest opens her own cake shop!

Oooohh!!! Potential plot device!

Catch those ideas while you can!!

Okay, back to the sea witch.

If we’re taking taste away, how about the sea witch is very jealous about Orcaman’s taste-testing skills?

Maybe Orcaman gave the sea witch a bad review on their special house brew?

Yeah, mermaid coffee, that’s right!

Photo by gdtography on Pexels.com

The sea witch is a barista who brews something special, so strong it turns orcas into men! :c)P

Photo by A Koolshooter on Pexels.com

And we could go the stereotypical route with the witch, either original example, the Disney’s Ursula (probably most everyone’s experience).

Or “The Other” that people use when they’re scared and don’t understand.

Photo by Genaro Servu00edn on Pexels.com

How about we make this sea witch the personification of all the jerks out there, the guys who cut you off in traffic, the Mr. ItMustBeAboveYourPayGrade in the line, the guy who blows up at every small inconvenience, the manipulator.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

And we’ll name him: DaveChad.

He’s The Ultimate Jerk!®

He uses the magic of The Bad Mean (the negative energy of the world, opposite of The Good Happy) to convert his angry outbursts into scathing rays of destruction and powerful mind-bending manipulations.

And unfortunately, he makes the best cup of coffee under the sea.

Oooh! Opportunity!! Cath the Single Mom makes the best coffee on land!!

I keep notebooks and stickies everywhere I go to jot down ideas when they strike.

Okay, so now that we have our antagonist or villain and his motivation, let’s get to outlining.

The purpose of outlining is to get your story arranged ahead of time so that you can keep your plot organized and know what’s happening next.

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

A lot of people outline, many famous authors have complicated diagrams, flowsheets, tables, storyboards, and anything you can imagine.

And that’s just it, it’s anything you can imagine.

Photo by Aidan Roof on Pexels.com

There is no right or wrong way to plan out your story.

Sometimes, I just like to write a short story of the plot and see where it takes me.

I guess I’m more of a “By-The-Seat-Of-Your-Pants” kinda writer or “pantser”, rather than a “Planner”. That’s just how my brain works.

Photo by Gladson Xavier on Pexels.com

If you’re more of a “Planner”, that’s awesome! Everyone is different.

I’ll show you a couple different ways, including a fun one that could be turned into a game, if you so desire!

Traditional outlining.

The traditional outline method would be something like this:

SETTING: Undersea, creepy ocean-themed coffee shop, A Kelp of Coffee
CHARACTERS: Orcaman and DaveChad
PURPOSE: To show how desperate Orcaman is to get to the surface and how evil and manipulative Davechad is. Also, propel the plot forward.
A. Orcaman saw Cath and fell in love. He will do anything to go topside.
i. Orcaman enters A Kelp of Coffee where Davechad is known to help those in predicaments
ii. “I need legs. You’re the only one who can help. I’m in love.”
iii. “It will cost you. You will have poor taste and olfactory obfuscation. If she does not marry you in 1 month, you will work as my dishwasher, chained to the skink for eternity!”
iv. Orcaman agrees to the terms, certain he can make this happen.
B. Davechad brews the strongest cup he’s ever created, so strong it begins to eat at the metal cup, and offers it to Orcaman. He accepts the drink.
i. He takes a sip. It’s so hot and so strong, not only does it burn, but it removes a layer from the surface of his mouth.
ii. “Now I can’t taste anything!”
iii. “You won’t be able to smell anything, either!”
[cue evil laughter]
iv. Orcaman runs out of the building.

So you could totally do that for every scene in your story.

Photo by Mica Asato on Pexels.com

Like I said, I’m more of a pantser and would be more drawn to just writing the thing out in story form.

You don’t have to be as detailed, either.

It could simply be:

  • Orcaman sees Cath and falls in love
  • Visits DaveChad and asks for legs. loses his taste and smell as payment.
  • Cath finds an unconscious Orcaman now with legs.
  • He has 1 month to get her to marry him.

There’s also the bubble diagram technique.

This works especially well in the brainstorming phase.

Very simple, just write the subject you’re planning and lines extending outward for each related thing.

Like this:

Your bubble diagram will look a lot better than mine! ;c)P

My typical writing technique is to just simply purge and go with it.

I like to explore as I go.

You can always edit later.

Correction: You WILL be editing later, and it’s always easier to remove words than add them.

If you just get everything down, you can rearrange them in a way that works best for the story’s sake.

Here’s my version of discovering the story:

Orcaman, beloved undersea food critic, loves watching Cath as she sits in the mornings before work drinking her coffee as she wistfully stares off at the sea, and again in the evenings while she works the dining room.
He overhears her say she’s trying to start her own cake business on the side (along with being a single mom raising two kids). She laments on how she wishes she had more help, although she appreciates her father helping in the capacity he is able, with his leg and all.
In desperation, he turns to DaveChad, who gives him the legs he desires, but takes his taste and smell as payment. Orcaman somehow sustains a head injury while leaving, knocking him out.
Cath finds an unconscious Orcaman (now with Legs™!) on the beach. She helps him up and takes him to the Black Fish Motel where she dresses him in the lost and found.
He has amnesia. Or says he does? He’s really nice and sweet. Police don’t find any missing persons cases with his description, so they allow him to decide where he’d like to go, so he chooses to remain with Cath.
He has 1 month to make her fall in love with him. Through his attentions and assistance, she begins to.
Together, they get her cake shop closer to a reality. She is somewhat dismayed he can’t taste test her delights.
DaveChad sees what is happening and really wants a dishwasher. He’s tired of cleaning his own dishes, he already has a cook. He can’t let Orcaman win!
Meanwhile, Grandpa has his own backstory that now becomes relevant to this story. He has always told tales about his fishing days, of meeting a beautiful maiden of the sea, everyone had thought he was making the story up.
One day, Grandpa notices how Orcaman does something (eats shellfish whole? uses a fork to comb his hair?) that makes him suspicious. He begins telling Orcaman all about his onetime love.
This turns out to be DaveChad’s current cook, who is chained to the stove. Oooh and maybe she gave Orcaman something to take beforehand that allowed him to fight half the spell. He tells Grandpa his love still exists, she has been chained to her job all this time. Grandpa wishes he could free her, laments on how old he is and his bum knee sustained from the fishing accident that is somehow tied to the sea maiden.
He tells Grandpa about the spell and his need to marry his daughter within the next couple weeks.
Grandpa tells him that’s simply not possible, not because she would say no, but that she’s still waiting for her ex-husband to sign the divorce papers.
Distraught, he does not know what to do, only that the only way to free himself and the old maiden is to break DaveChad’s powers.
The villain had seen this coming and meanwhile had been writing letters “from Cath” to her ex, professing her returning love and wish for reconciliation. He shows up at her work (the opening of her cake shop) with flowers and a box of chocolates (the wrong kind, of course), and tells her his feelings are the same, he has returned to his family.
What they don’t know is the ACTUAL ex read the letters, didn’t care, and went on with his life. DaveChad was so angered by the ex not following his plan, he made himself look like the ex and is merely playing the part to manipulate Cath and Orcaman. Nobody knows it’s him.
Cath is angry that he showed up “out of nowhere”, but when he says, “it’s for the kids”, she softens, allowing his spells to work on her. She brings her ex into the house in a hypnotized state and explains he’s back in their lives. Orcaman is shocked and hurt, but then he sees the eyes of DaveChad staring back and knows it’s not Cath’s ex.
He tries to explain, but she gets angry and kicks him out.

Alright! We have a story!

But we’re not done.

Who shall narrate the story? Whose thoughts and actions should we follow?

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

We can ponder this a while.

Now that we have all the events laid out, we can try the game option I mentioned earlier!

This involves index cards or pieces of paper. It could even be all those junk mail envelopes you’ve been meaning to throw out. Just something you can tear into pieces and write on.

I’ve listed the events out below in simpler format for me to readily see.

  • Orcaman watches Cath and falls in love
  • Orcaman seeks out DaveChad for help, he has 1 month
  • Cath finds unconscious Orcaman
  • They begin to fall in love
  • Grandpa’s Sea Maiden/Cook backstory
  • DaveChad contacts Ex
  • DaveChad disguises himself as the Ex
  • “Ex” shows up and Orcaman is kicked out

Okay so I’ve written these on little slips of paper and I’m going to shuffle them.

What event shall spark the story?

You can do this with any story or even just write generalized events, basically Mad Lib your way through a story! Might be fun! (Especially on days like today where the power might go out!) You could retell a story from the event you draw from the stack, or tell how the story would be different if that event had not occurred.

The first piece I draw will be the first scene to start off the story.

Drum roll, please…

Photo by Alena Darmel on Pexels.com

And survey says….

Oh interesting!

I took this against the contrast of my kitty’s black fur. Cats help writers a lot.

We will begin the story with the Grandfather telling his tales of the sea, and of how he got his injury and no longer sails.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Also, maybe we’ll make the perspective be of the old man watching his daughter struggle, wishing he could help more.

He was a single dad himself when he raised Cath.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He probably didn’t like the ex, but maybe he did? Maybe he wished she would stay with the ex and doesn’t like Orcaman?

Ohhhh, maybe he’s afraid Cath will have a difficult life alone like he did and he wants to save her from the pain.

When the ex comes back into the picture, he thinks “Stability!”, only thinking of his daughter’s and grandkids’ best interests.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What will he do when he finds out the ex is really DaveChad?

Despite his voice telling the story, the Grandfather won’t be the hero/protagonist (of this story!), it will be his daughter. (Just because it’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid, doesn’t mean it needs to be from the Mermaid’s perspective.)

She will be overcoming her past, she will need to see things as they really are, and she will have to trust again. She will make the choice her father should have (I’ll figure out what exactly that is as I go along).

Photo by Jure u0160iriu0107 on Pexels.com

Those will be her main driving motivations (beyond caring for her children, that is of course a given).

There’s a lot of potential here!

I don’t have the ending quite planned out, but that’s fine, I can discover it as I go!

So tune in next week to find out how I assemble these pieces together and actually weave the story!

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

I can’t wait to hear about yours!

From the author’s heart to yours ❤

Thanks for pretending with me! See you next time!

Take Care,

❤ K

Published by karaluna

Kara was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, in a tiny town, Sequim, Wa. The closest mall was two and a half hours away in Silverdale, Seattle a ferryboat ride away. She spent her childhood playing in the woods, exploring her imagination, and learning to be a mechanic from her father. Creative writing was always an outlet. She started a career as a motorcycle mechanic, to later find she wanted to try something else. After several career changes, she finds herself yet again on the road with only the journey ahead. She writes whenever she can. She has been published in her previous work’s newsletter, The Healthy Heron.

6 thoughts on “I’ve Got Characters, Now What?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: