What I was missing with Novel 01 that I will apply with Novel 02, and will refine until I write “The Story,” is a generic character sheet for each of the noteworthy, main or side characters. I avoided doing this for the longest time because of my general trepidation toward role-playing games that spend hours debating whether a character can survive a dexterity roll, but if I adapt it for what I need, it’s not that bad.
Spoilers?: Minor [covering character bases]
I played fast with the characters in Novel 01 and kept most of the details in memory.
Unlike the two-week gestation period I had for 01, for Novel 02, I’m technically starting the worldbuilding process now. You get a different effect when you shotgun-blast the details about the world for hours of contemplation compared to the more nuanced effect of picking minutes out of your week to think idly about things. You can get good effects both ways, and given the option, I would have wanted more than two weeks to plan and four weeks to write, but the result is a completed 60,000-word novel that is rough but not awful.
I would like to spend more time with these characters going forward.
Having general information about them is a good start. I won’t dig into the psyches of all the characters, because honestly just like in real life, if we dig into the motivations of all the people we meet at the bus stop or at work, it gets convoluted [and creepy] fast. Every character that’s more than fills a bit role should, however, have some sort of basic information about them, even if not all the information is used in the novel. I wasn’t sure how to write about skin tones/colors in Novel 01 so I mostly ignored doing so, but doing so can be confusing. I’ll include this and other basic biological or sociological information.
Below is the text version of generic information I’ll consider:
These features are more for general consideration than specific scrutiny.
Since I can draw acceptably for a writer, I included a generic person to the right that I can scribble over. For a character like Josh that has tattoos, I could draw alternate versions of what he looks like. For main character Sammohini, I can draw each of her main outfits, and here’s the thing, too, that I wasn’t able to do with that two-week gestation period that I will practice through these side novels until I write “The Story” – Novel 01 was lacking visual information partially because it was hard for me to visualize everything, so I focused on character psychology with essentially barebones details, unless it was psychologically relevant, like Sammohini feeling unsure so she looked around a room, or something.
I will eventually need to start drawing or modeling out settings as well.
I might prefer an easily manageable 3D program for this, so I can plop sets or characters in, and maybe even use that as my preparation before I begin writing a particularly complex scene. I can usually visualize the scenes in my head better than I can draw them out, but if I work within even something like The Sims for some setting composition and narrative framing, then I could maybe work faster. These are probably the main regrets I have for having such a short gestation period. I drew some simple headshots of the main cast but then never referred to them again because I was using a notebook, like Sammohini’s orange notebook, but didn’t use it enough to be worthwhile.
As a result, I under-utilized those drawings, and it maybe hurt the storytelling aspects.
The thing is although I’m overall happy with Novel 01, I can take what was good and what I could have improved on [what was bad], iron out those bad parts and amplify those good parts to make it even better. I didn’t know that I’d need something like this until, honestly, I was playing ENDLESS WAR and wanted to draw my persona’s details. After some iterations, I realized that I could use that for the Sammohini Arc of “The Story,” and a few days later, here I am, having just drawn the template and writing about the template.
Something like this could be useful for other writers as well.
The big thing we, as writers, need to do is get over our pedantry search for perfection that we do with word choice when it comes to other aspects of our stories. I’m fine with a stupid template drawing like the one I’m showing above that I’ll use going forward, [until I make a significant iterative change,] because it’s better to have something that you can edit later… than nothing. Eventually, it would be easier to outsource this to an art program or even an artist, but for now, this will do since I’m probably going to write Novel 02 without any assistance.
I would say, too, the more tools a writer can have for themselves, the better.
If I can doodle a character’s design in full color in Paint and be done in somewhere between 5 to 20 minutes, why not? Sure, it won’t look as fantastic as outsourcing it to someone or some program, but for the purposes of expressing a character’s design, it’s better to have something than nothing, or one small black-and-white sketch in a notebook referenced maybe twice. If I find a program or videogame that lets me design characters quickly and effectively, I’ll go that route, but for now, this will work decently well for me for designing characters.
I could also draw quick sketches of settings this same way for the same reasons.
I don’t know if I could find a robust character and setting designer, and plus the time required to learn the tools might be tricky, but that’s why it’s nice having this time to explore.
Still, it’s easy to procrastinate without steady plans toward writing.
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium. My novel-writing experiences.|
|Inspirations: Besides what I wrote above? I looked at some role-playing character sheets, but, wow, those things are convoluted.|
|Related: Essays building “The Story.”|
|Picture: My own design. Use freely with credit, please.|
|Written On: 2020 May 18 [1:33pm to 2:13pm]|
|Last Edited: 2020 May 18 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|