Monday 1 September 2014

Plotting and Planning Your Book and Character Development #ChaBooChaLite

Today is the first day of the 2014 ChaBooCha Lite challenge. How much of your book have you planned ahead?

If you haven't outlined your book ahead of time, or done any of the background work for your characters, today's post should help you with all of that.

(Those of you who joined the Blog Your Book in 30 Days challenge back in April might recognize some of this from the first day's post during that challenge. That's because I have made a few changes and re-purposed it for here.)

Once you have your title, you need a short synopsis. Try and write a blurb for your book, the kind of thing that would be found on the back cover of the book. Once your blurb is written, add in how the story is going to end, and you should have a decent but brief synopsis. (Note: This is a simplified way of looking at it. I have made it short and simple in order to speed up the story preparation process for the purposes of the challenge.)

Here are some examples of the kind of thing you would write for your synopsis:

Fiction example: 
Gabby is just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life until one day, she isn’t. Magical things start happening around her, beginning with her shadow taking on a life of its own. Gabby would think this was cool, if it wasn’t for the fact that her shadow was trying to kill her. Gabby and her friend Devin rush to find out why her shadow is coming after her and how they can stop it, and along the way they both learn to believe in themselves and stand up for their beliefs, which gives Gabby the strength to prevail against the menace of her shadow.

Non-fiction example: 
The 28 Day Fitness Challenge gives you several exercises to choose from for each day of the challenge with the goal of increasing your fitness levels. The challenge gives you a mixture of weight training (anaerobic) exercises and cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises. There are three different levels of challenges to choose from each day: beginner, intermediate and advanced. If you do the exercises daily, by the end of the 28 Day Fitness Challenge, you will be stronger and more fit than when you started.

Your synopsis does not have to be perfect at this stage in your writing. This is just the planning stage and everything can be changed when you get to the editing and revising stage, once the first draft of your book is completed.

(Note: My non-fiction example is not an example for a book written for kids or teens. If you are writing a non-fiction chapter book, middle grade book or YA novel, I'd love to replace this example with yours instead.)

Next, you need an outline. Not everyone uses an outline for their novels, but outlines are really useful ways to help make sure you have a direction for your writing, and this is true for both fiction and non-fiction writing.

For simplicity, I'm going to suggest that you write down chapter headings, along with a brief, one- or two-line, description of the chapter. If you write half a chapter a day, you will have 15 chapters, so shoot for 15 chapters in your outline, although this number can be flexible.

Here are some examples of the kind of thing you would write for your chapter one heading and description:

Fiction example:
     1.Her Shadow
          a. Gabby begins to notice that her shadow is moving independently from 

             her, and she senses something dark and evil is behind it.
          b. Gabby and her friend Jake do some research to try and find out what 

             is causing the independent shadow.

Non-fiction example:
     1. Day One of the 28 Day Fitness Challenge
         a. Aerobic/Cardio Exercise
             1) Beginning Level
             2) Intermediate Level
             3) Advanced Level

Character Descriptions
The next thing you will want to plan ahead of time is your character descriptions. You will want to know as much as you can about your main character as well as one or two things about your secondary characters.

Here are some questions to ask of each of your characters:

Name of character?

Age of character?

Appearance/looks/physical attributes of character?

How does the character dress?

Personality traits?

Family background of character?

Anything in characters past that is important for character now?

What does the character want?

What are the character's flaws?

Does your character have any quirks and, if so, what are they?

Does the character have any special skills or abilities?

How do others react to the character?

E-mail me at Rebecca (at) Fyfe (dot) net if you would like a Character Description worksheet with the above questions.


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  1. Some great ideas here, I like to build my stories around my characters. I find making character profiles also helps later on when I am editing!

  2. Great starting points. Jumping in now!

  3. Great tips. I like to have an idea of the beginning and ending of a book and the characters build as the story develops. It works for me :) I find I do character profiles as I go rather than at the start.

  4. Happy #ChaBooChaLite Month! Thanks for giving me a nudge in the right direction.

  5. yay I am back with a venge venga vainglorious cheese grater of an idea or not, yes yes I am I am going to do something awesome this month because I can. I am also slightly nutty due to the incursion of a six week old baby in my home. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  6. This is my first time here. I look forward to writing a new chapter book. I have the idea and kind of know what's going to happen, but we'll see as the writing goes along. I'm sure much of it will change as the characters develop and grow. Thanks for this opportunity.

  7. My first time, too. Thanks for the synopsis brief and the examples. They were very helpful. All outlined and ready to roll!

  8. Great advise!! Very helpful and thank you! Looking forward to participating in this event. I love the inspirational words on the blogs and they help motivate me to do what I love best!

  9. Great advice! I'm a day late joining in but excited to work on my novel! So glad I found your blog/challenge!

  10. What a perfect site for the chapter book that I just began. Thank you!

  11. I've been working like a hurricane on my story and I'm happy to discover this blog. What fun!