The Countdown to NaNoWriMo: Brainstorming, Outlining, and Learning My Characters

By: Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash.com

“The time is almost here to begin my favourite, and most fulfilling month (usually), and to embark on a new writing journey for myself. I have been working on my outlines, having frequent brainstorming sessions, all to prepare for NaNoWriMo. I am certainly looking forward to having a much more consistent writing schedule this year, as I don’t want to be too far away from my word count with just a few days remaining (this has definitely happened to me before). So, with that being said, I spent quite a bit of time – and I’m still in the process of creating very in-depth character profiles for my main characters. I really wanted to have a decent launching pad for just how I can allow their characters to develop. I’ve been getting into the habit of waking up a bit earlier, and making the most of my mornings because even though I don’t necessarily like being awake at that time – my brain functions the best when the sun’s rising. I feel incredibly creative around that time, and I really want to get into the habit of writing a bit first thing in the morning. Even if that doesn’t pan out, I know I’ll be putting in the time and effort regardless.”

Writing a Novel is No Easy Task. The More Prepared You Are, The Better.

I am certainly trying something different this year, because of all the years I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, I’ve had quite weak outlines and I did just fine. This year, I want to do more than just fine. I didn’t realize just how important understanding your characters’ attributes had been until I took the time to really get to know my own. I am still in the process of outlining a few of the supporting characters, but so far I have a pretty good grasp on who my main characters are and how they’d react to certain situations. My first order of business while creating these profiles was to start with a question that somehow pertains to the plot, and I then asked myself how I think these characters would react to the news they’ve just heard or new information they’ve just learned – each one was entirely different. I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing out on really getting to know my characters until I spent a good amount of time with them. There really is no better way to thicken a plot than to have in-depth characters that progress and grow as the story goes on. 

I have been compiling as much as I can in regards to these characters’ backstories, because their family lives are very important to the progression of the plot. I’ve been giving myself some visual inspiration as well, making Pinterest boards for my project, having something to work off of, which makes a home, a street, or even a character much easier to describe. I found that before this, I was always struggling to make the imagery authentic enough throughout the piece, so having a clear visual image really helps. I went through a few different outlining points that really worked for me:

My Brainstorming and Outlining Process

  • I started with the general idea: A simple blurb of text to just get the surface of my thoughts down.
  • Then I moved into the setting: Where I wanted the novel to be set, and why? What’s special about this particular city? As I am writing a Mystery/Thriller set in today’s time, I wanted my locations to feel as real as possible.
  • Next, where do your characters live? The home: Due to the circumstances surrounding my characters’ families, and their importance, creating a good mental picture of the where they reside is incredibly crucial. However, even if this is not the case, it can very well play a pivotal role through how their home lives have shaped them.
  • Now, it’s time to see who we’re dealing with, the characters: I gave a lot of depth to each of my main characters and I am still in the process of working on a few of the supporting characters I’ve deemed to be important. In order to really know why they are the way they are, writing a short blurb can really help to give you some insight. It can also help to keep you consistent, as your character continues to grow.
  • Finally, chapter outlines: Now, I don’t believe that I will be sticking to these too much, but to collect my thoughts before I begin a new chapter can really help the story flow smoothly, without making any alterations that may not seem to match the rest of the story. I don’t plan on going too in-depth here, but I would like a starting point, and a possible end point to really get me working. Throw around a few, “what ifs” to see how they may fit into the plot, as this can really change the story entirely – maybe even for the better.

I was never much a believer in outlines, until I really started to assess why I wasn’t reaching my end goals. The primary reason being that I was falling out of love with the novel because I felt like I’ve lost my way, instead of getting lost in the flow of the plot. Understanding more about your characters can’t hurt, nor can a short little chapter outline (a few words on what’s going on, that you can change as the story progresses), and it may be exactly what you need to reach your end goal.

I wish those participating in NaNoWriMo this year the best of luck!

Thank you for reading and happy writing!

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