The 10-day countdown to NaNoWriMo is underway!
This year I’m determined to hone my preparation unlike last year when I committed to NaNo at 11:00PM on October 31st. My fantasy world overhaul has officially stepped back to allow the new novel the spotlight. The map is complete and the history is in historical mothballs—for now. My first draft awaits.
My personal goal for November is to complete a full draft as opposed to the normal 50K word requirement to win. That requires preparation so I can write as efficiently as possible.
This morning I completed the first step, a synopsis/outline spanning hook to resolution that’s aligned with the story’s beats. It’s longer than expected, yet possesses wiggle room so my creativity-on-the-fly won’t be stifled. It’s all setup in Scrivener and waiting for the drafting to begin.
That isn’t to say there weren’t problems.
More than once I discovered holes in the story or other issues requiring my attention. Yet, rather than experiencing frustration I was pleased. Better to discover the snags now than in November when the unexpected will be issue enough to deal with.
I have some basic character facts established and a detailed backstory for the protagonist written, but now it’s time to turn my attention to the Character Traits and Abilities Worksheets I developed over the summer.
Character Traits and Abilities Worksheets. Online are sheets with similar functions that others have created, but I was never satisfied with those versions and vowed to create my own. In a sense it was a moment of insanity, for I soon realized I wasn’t building a firecracker, but instead a rocket destined for Pluto.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I’m a stubborn Taurus and instead of giving up I became more ambitious. Yes, insanity is a good word for it and in the end I produced the 8-page spreadsheet (seriously) I entitled my Character Traits and Abilities Worksheets. The original will remain blank and I simply do a Save As to create a new one for each character.
The first worksheet, which is a stand-alone, is an extensive examination of physical traits and vital statistics (name, age, birthplace, etc.). After typing in the initial info I can choose traits by selecting the highlight function and clicking on each applicable box (I took the time to merge the cells in each box for that reason). I wanted that this be a swift process. Creating the worksheet required trial and error as I sought to produce a thorough, versatile form.
A bigger challenge were the psychological traits. Compiling them all and somehow subdividing them seemed a daunting task. My solution was found in the back of The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Appendix C shows the positive traits divided into moral, achievement, interactive, and identity categories. Bingo! Even better, I decided to also utilize the individual traits and descriptions Angela and Becca used.
Thus, I created a worksheet for each of those four categories and included the corresponding page number from their book along with a short description and an Intensity Scale. The scale rates the trait strength in each character. Likewise, I made a fifth worksheet corresponding to The Negative Trait Thesaurus. Again, speed was important so all I have to do is click on the desired box in the scale and a formula assigns the correct value on the far right. Yeah, believe it or not, I thought that up.
Anyway, if you’re counting we’re up to six worksheets.
The seventh worksheet was all on me. It’s a skills inventory. It’s also a list I’m sure I’ll eventually expand, but it’ll require time to expose what’s missing. Again, I included the Intensity Scale on the side.
The eighth and final worksheet severely tested my Excel skills. Setting the physical trait worksheet aside because the Intensity Scale didn’t apply, I created The Overview Worksheet to compile all the intensity values from the other six sheets so I could view them all at a glance. In other words, lots of 1s and 2s reveal a character’s strongest traits in an instant. Not only does it paint a picture, but also reveals if a character is too gifted or too flawed. The best part is that it’s automatic. The instant I choose an intensity level on a Trait or Skill worksheet it appears on the Overview Worksheet.
I’m not marketing this. Five of the worksheets are partly based on the work of other people (Thank you, Becca and Angela). As previously stated, I tied my lists directly to their books and in many cases lifted their trait descriptions word-for-word. My contribution is limited to the overall concept, Physical Trait Worksheet, Skills Inventory, Overview Worksheet, and intensity scales.
Keep in mind these worksheets are only a part of the picture, a single tool in the character building toolbox. Don’t forget backstory, habits, arc, etc. I like the worksheets because they’re visual, but it’ll take another week before I know how well they work in practice. I’ll let you know.