Sunday, December 23, 2012

Character Arcs (And How I've Been Plotting My Novel)

Recently, I read Wither by Lauren Destefano and I was struck by how beautifully done the character arcs were. Well, okay, it wasn't recently. It was more like a couple of months ago. But anyway, I've been struggling for a while, trying to figure out how to keep so much focus on the development of my characters. I don't know why it took me so long to figure it out, though. The answer was so simple (and yet oh-so complicated.) Why don't I just plot the character arcs along with my novel? Duh.
Still, when I though of that, I was still in a pickle. How would I set up my plot in a way that I could keep track of both the plot arc and the character arcs? I'm not the most organized person, as you'll see below.
Sorry for the bad quality of these pictures. I can't find the charger for my I had to use my phone. (Yet another example of how I'm an unorganized person.)

Anyway, these are pages in the sketchbook that I use to plot and brainstorm for my WIP.

I'm kind of glad that you can't read any of it. ;P

Look at all of those notes, squeezed into the tiniest of places. How am I supposed to build a novel off of this?

Okay, so this one's slightly more structured, but still. You get the point. 

So, I took all of that and turned it into this:
That's right. I took every single note from my sketchbook and put it on loose-leaf paper, all organized by category.
Then I made a list of the story arcs I had to follow. There were, like, six. I don't know if that's a lot for you, but it's a lot for me. In the first draft of this novel, I had, like, two and a half. And I didn't even know what I was doing.
THEN, I came up with an AWESOME system. For each scene, I'll ask five questions.
Who (who is in the scene?)
What (what is happening in the scene?)
Where (where is the scene taking place?)
When (when is the scene taking place?)
How (how does this move the story forward? How does this effect each plot line? How does this change or affect the characters? and etc.)

So then I have something that looks along the lines of this:

Who: Fraud, Lauren, Iri, Warriors, and a couple of Ashrays
What: Fraud wakes up to screaming. Everyone runs out to find nearly all of the Ashrays have been slaughtered. (ashrays are out during night because they’re nocturnal) Like 3 are left alive, screaming. Warrior says something stupid like, “At least we’re safe.” Then he dies. Everyone starts running for the exits. One Ashray dies b/c it’s daylight now. Others are left inside, trapped. They die. Start running. Wait, where’s Devlin? Have to leave him, can’t go back.
When: Day 3
Where: Ashray Lair
How: Lauren sees Eolande and no one else does (which is pretty scarring) She doesn't realize no one else saw her, though. Devlin left over the night to go to castle. Eolande made a slight mistake drinking all their blood, she knows. But she couldn’t help it. She’ll just get them another time.

It took a while to do, but now that I've done it fifty billion times, I have a (nearly) finished plot and a clear picture in my head of how the characters develop! I still have some polishing to do. Add some scene notes here and there, decide what information I want to reveal in each scene, and decide what POV each scene will be in. Oh, and I have to type the entire thing up on my computer still. But, other than that, my plot is basically done.(:

You're welcome to try out this method if you want. However, if you don't like plotting very much or if you're a pantser who's decided to try out plotting for the first time, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT USE THIS METHOD. This was tedious for me, a plotoholic. If you've never tried plotting before, doing this will probably make you hate it. And, quite possibly, it may even make you hate your own story. I don't want to be responsible for that. You should start small, build up your own method and ways. (:

How do you keep track of character arcs? What's your method of plotting?

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