A lot of people
are doing NaNoWriMo this month (for those who don’t know it, the aim is to
write 50,000 words of a novel in November) so if anyone’s feeling a bit stuck,
I thought I’d share a variation of a technique I used in a masterclass at CYA
Now that I've discovered it, I intend to use frequently during the progress of a manuscript, but I think it’s useful early on - when you’ve thought about your characters quite a lot already, and you
thought you knew the shape of the story, but now that you’re writing it,
nothing’s quite as sharp and clear as you thought it was.
It can be challenging,
but it works well – and remember, nobody’s watching or judging.
So: get a paper and
pencil, or a sharpie, and just ask your protagonist, ‘What do you most
But the trick is: you
write the question out with your dominant hand, and answer with your non
dominant hand – that’s why a nice fat sharpie is good. Don’t think about the
answer, just let it come, misshaped letters and all. I've only used it for child characters so far, but I think it's also valid for adult protagonists, because most of our deepest wants and fears come from the child within us.
If your character
doesn’t know what they want, ask what they’re most afraid of. Ask why. Ask
whatever you think a probing counsellor might ask them. And most importantly,
don’t judge their answers. You might be surprised at what comes – I usually am.
And whether you use
all that you’ve discovered or not, you’ll certainly end up with a stronger
feeling of who your character is. Just don’t forget that you’re still the boss,
so you may not choose to give your character exactly what they think they want.
But it may give you a clearer idea of what they need to experience, and
therefore, where you want your story to go.
Labels: creating book characters, creating protagonists, creative writing, dialogue with your protagonist, how to write, NaNoWriMo, non dominant hand writing, writer's block