Getting to the heart of it (Part 1)

As I’ve been wrestling with the beginning of my WIP, I’ve been trying various strategies for discovering other characters and situations which must organically exist in my story.

One of my first efforts was to get in deep with the characters in knew about. This worked, but only insofar as I learned a lot about my characters and a couple other intimate connections who will matter (a father, for one). But there were still many holes in my story sketch (or outline, as it were).

My next thought was to draw up a conflict /tension diagram. Mine was on a single sheet of paper with all the entities in my story written around the border. Then I drew red or orange lines between the entities representing first-order conflict or tension, and secondary sources of tension. A useful exercise, but not one which yielded much immediate fruit.

My next exercise, on that approach will be to dig into each entity and see what forces are at work within them (the military, for example). While I suspect this approach will be useful (let’s be honest, every approach is useful to a degree), I’m afraid I’m still not going to unearth the other characters I’m looking for.

This is why I have another idea, another possibly useful approach: free write a day (or week) in the life of each character that I know about. Hopefully, as I do so, I’ll discover which other characters they come in contact with and whether those characters are minor, major, or one-offs.

The point is that writing, I’m discovering, requires the author to be immensely adaptive… Always looking for another angle to try in search of the characters and substance or their story. Whatever methods work for you, or a specific story, are inherently good because they move you on your way, one step closer to your story. So keep on digging, trying new things, attacking every angle, until you find what you need.

What works for you? Please comment below!

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