With the beginning of NaNoWriMo less than a week away, many of us are still floundering around with bits and pieces of story ideas, wondering how we’re going to arrange them into something coherent for our novels. Today I bring you a brief exercise which might help you to put some of your thoughts in order. All you have to do is answer 5 questions and write 6 sentences.
Sound simple? Then let’s go. Here are the questions. You may answer them with a word or a sentence.
1. Who is your main character? (If you don’t have a name, now is the time to come up with one.)
1b. (optional) Who is his or her sidekick? (Companion, mentor, friend, frenemy, family member, etc.)
2. What does your main character want? (His or her overriding goal, quest, desire.)
3. Why can’t he or she have it? (The main obstacle thwarting that goal.)
4. What will help him or her achieve it? (A personal attribute, an item, a person or persons, etc.)
5. What will it cost? (Nothing comes without a cost. What will your MC have to sacrifice?)
Bonus Question: What is your working title?
Okay, now that you have those things sorted (and don’t move on to the next section until you do!), write a sentence describing each of the following:
1. Your main character’s situation when the story opens–what’s ‘normal’ for him/her and the world of the story.
2. What goes wrong–what changes–why ‘normal’ can’t or doesn’t continue.
3. What your main character will do to fight back or respond to what happens.
4. How that response doesn’t work, things only get worse, and defeat for the main character seems certain.
5. How the main character rallies and wins in the end (or doesn’t, I suppose).
6. Your main character’s situation when the story ends.*
If you can go into NaNoWriMo with even these few notes in hand, you’ve got–well, not a road map, but at least some sketchily drawn directions to get through your story.
*The idea for the second part of the exercise came from here: http://www.andrewjackwriting.com/2013/02/11/six-sentence-story-planning-for-pantsers/