Maybe one of the best part of the write-a-thon is choosing who you get to spend it with. I’m not talking about your NaNo buddies, though they are important. I am talking about the characters in your book. These will be your most constant companions for the next month. You either want to choose people you adore spending time with or people you love to hate—otherwise this could be a pretty boring month for you.
The Indigo Girls have a wonderful love song called, Collecting You on their CD Become You. In it they sing, “I could paint you in the dark/Cause I’ve studied you with hunger like a work of art/These are very secret days/I collect my information then I stow it all away/ … Call me, I’m collecting you.” As writers, no encounter or experience goes to waste. Like a cook collects herbs from the garden, we collect the appearances, habits, impressions, and words of those we encounter. The cook is thinking about her soup, and we are thinking about our characters. We stow away this information until it is time to create our characters.
The time is now. Who are the people who will live your story? Who is this book going to be about? In your project notebook, make a list of characters. For each character, consider:
*Work; work space description
*Friends, family, love interest
*Living space description
*Background (childhood, education, formative events)
*Internal and external conflict. What do they want? Who or what stands in their way?
As you work on this list don’t forget about the people you have been collecting over the years. Remember the kid in your 4th grade class who used to eat his boogers? Are there aspects of him that belong in your book? Use them. Look at public figures—do they possess some of the same qualities you see in your characters? Borrow them. Think about your own life experience—are there pieces of your own journey that might belong to one of the characters as well? Lend it to them.
Need more help? Use a list of classic archetypes to develop your characters. Study the archetype of the hero, victim, saboteur, and vampire—and see how their descriptions and appearances in literature and film might help you create believable characters. am also a big fan of using archetypes to develop characters. Caroline Myss has a wonderful collection of archetype descriptions along with examples in her book Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential.