Update on Planning

You are probably sick of hearing about this, but I’m happy to announce that my planning is going extremely well. My goal was to complete this task by the 19th – I have two days to go – and I’m almost there.

All I have to do is rewrite my one page synopsis. The original was quite poor but since I’ve managed to fill in many of those holes, this rewrite will be a vast improvement.

My next goal is to rewrite/edit my anthology story by the end of the month.

Character Sub Plots Part 2

Yesterday, I said that I was going to start a spreadsheet and define my character’s sub plots. Well, this has proven to be difficult. In my mind I know what each character will be doing but to separate the threads like this is…challenging.

First, I had to write down the main plot. That was easy. Then I took each of the major characters and wrote down their subplot, which has got nothing to do with the main plot. One of the characters is dealing with inner conflict, another character is trying to deal with someone who is hostile towards him but he doesn’t know why, a third character has fallen in love and finds it difficult to focus on the job at hand, while a fourth character has his own agenda.

This is all while they carry out the main plot. It’s quite interesting how they cross over and effect each other, which causes conflict, tension and an interesting story. And of course, the more I discover about these people now, the easier it will be for me to portray them in a realistic manner.

It’s fun, even if it is giving me a headache.

The Importance of Water

In planning this next novel I’ve been talking about over the past week, I’ve had several scenes rolling around in my head. One of them is where a man tumbles into a shaft and is trapped for a period of time before he’s rescued. How long? I wasn’t sure but I thought I’d do some research to find out what a person could stand and how the body would react with limited water and food. Here are some interesting tidbits that I found helpful for this scene, but also horrifying as true facts. I’ll start out with the nicer facts on water and the body and then I’ll go into the not so nice facts. Be warned, some of the following is not suitable for the faint hearted.

The following quote was taken from Answers.com:

About seventy two percent of the fat free mass of the human body is made of water. To function properly the body requires between one and seven litres/quarts of water per day to avoid dehydration, the precise amount depending on the level of activity, temperature, humidity, and other factors. It is not clear how much water intake is needed by healthy people. Water is lost from the body in urine and faeces, through sweating, and by exhalation of water vapor in the breath.

And the next two quoted sections were taken from this page:

A reliable clue to indicate dehydration is a rapid drop in weight. This loss may equal several pounds in a few days (or at times hours). A rapid drop of over 10% (fifteen pounds in a person weighing 150 pounds) is considered severe. Symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from those of the original illness, but in general, the following signs are suggestive of dehydration; increasing thirst, dry mouth, weakness or lightheadedness (particularly if worsening on standing), darkening of the urine, or a decrease in urination. Severe dehydration can lead to changes in the body’s chemistry, kidney failure, and can even become life-threatening.

However, this is the grusome bit. I was shocked to discover that a person could die after only 5 days. This does, of course, depend on the person’s health and the situation.

  • The mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material.
  • The lips would become parched and cracked.
  • The tongue would swell, and might crack.
  • The eyes would recede back into their orbits and the cheeks would become hollow.
  • The lining of the nose might crack and cause the nose to bleed.
  • The skin would hang loose on the body and become dry and scaly.
  • The urine would become highly concentrated, leading to burning of the bladder.
  • The lining of the stomach would dry out and the sufferer would experience dry heaves and vomiting.
  • The body temperature would become very high.
  • The brain cells would dry out, causing convulsions.
  • The respiratory tract would dry out, and the thick secretions that would result could plug the lungs and cause death.
  • At some point within five days to three weeks, the major organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain, would give out and the patient would die.

Naturally, there will always be an exception, but imagine how stupid I would have looked if I had this man trapped down that shaft for 6 weeks with no food or water and when he was rescued all that was wrong with him was that he’d lost a little weight? I would have lost all credibility immediately. Researching facts for your manuscript is essential.

One Page Synopsis

This is step 4 – expand the previously written paragraph into a page. If done properly this could become your synopsis.

With each step I take, I discover a hole in the plot. Step 4 was excellent for bringing these holes to the surface. I found myself asking “why would that happen?”, “would he do this instead?”, “what’s his motivation?”. By the time I’d finished writing the page, I had heaps of notes/questions written on a note pad and another new character who needs to be created. (Luckily, he came with a name tag.)

Unfortunately, my one page summary did not turn out to be written well enough to be the synopsis, but that’s OK. I might attempt writing it again later, once I’ve filled in a few more holes. Maybe I’ll do better then.

So…step 4 is done, and I should be moving onto step 5 now, but I think I’ll pause and add a Step 4A instead – making a list of subplots. The major ones are concrete in my mind but some of the minor ones need clarifying. I think I’ll start a spreadsheet and see if that will help me sort them out.

Character Sub Plots

An easy way to discover sub-plots for your characters is to tell the story, in one or two paragraphs, from each of the main character’s point of view (don’t forget your antagonist). You’ll be amazed how bland their personalities were before you started this exercise.

Today, I did this for book 2 of my trilogy. Writing one paragraph from the four main characters point of views was easy but it showed that the two supporting characters didn’t have much of a part. Actually, it proved that they were quite boring. So I rewrote their paragraphs and looked at what was happening from deep within them and discovered some conflict. I saw sides of them that I didn’t know existed and now their parts in the overall story will have more meaning and the story will have more depth.

I’m yet to do this with two new characters. My hero’s brother will join us in book 2, and there is a new antagonist. I will learn a lot about them during this exercise.

Give it a try. I guarantee you’ll learn something new about your characters too.

Book 2: Characters

Being book 2 I already have a cast of characters. Yet the antagonists in book 1 were dealt with so a new antagonist has stepped up to the mark. He’s coming through as a powerful man. I think he’s going to be quite challenging to the main characters.

A person who was only talked about in book 1 will also make an appearance. This will cause some tension and although I already know a lot about him, I don’t know his personality yet. It should be fun finding out.

Now that I know who will be taking the roles, I intend to write a few paragraphs telling the story from each of these people’s point of view. It’s amazing what you learn about the characters and the plot by doing this.

By the way, this is step 3 of the Snowflake Process.

Book 2: My Novel Paragraph

Step 2 of the Snowflake Process is to write a paragraph showing the major events of the manuscript. This should be five sentences long. The first sentence sets up the story. The second, third and fourth sentences show each of the disasters. And the final sentence wraps everything up in a nice neat bundle.

This step isn’t too difficult if you know what the major disasters are in your story, like I do. I’m fine with the disasters, it’s the stuff in between that is lacking for me, but that will be looked at in a later step.

Right now I have to move on to Step 3 – the characters. This should be easy as I already have profiles for the main characters, and I know them extremely well by now. The antagonist is a new character, so I’ll have to do some work there. Also, there are some other characters that I’ll need to know a little about before I can write about them convincingly.

However, Step 3 can wait until tomorrow. It’s late and I’m going to relax for a short time before heading off to bed.

Starting Trilogy Book 2

I’ve decided that I won’t dilvulge any information on this book but I will talk about it frequently.

After a long hiatus for various reasons, none of them are more than weak excuses, I forced myself to make a decision on what I will do next. As the collaborative project needs a giant battle to be written (and I know this will cause me no end of headaches and procrastination), I have decided to start work on Book 2 of my trilogy.

I have a rough plan swimming around in my head, but there are holes that need plugging. In order to get this book right first time round (OK, maybe not first time but I definitely don’t want to rewrite this one ten times) I have been working through the steps of the Snowflake Process.

Step 1: Write a sentence describing the book – This might sound easy but it’s not. After writing many sentences, I discovered that there was always something that could be considered a lie, or misleading. It’s meant to be fifteen words or less but the sentence I’ve settled on turned out to be twenty-two words. I’m happy with that, and the sentence is true to the story too.

Now, on to Step 2…