Picking a Character, Format and Word Count for your Dear Diary Project

There are some important decisions that you have to make before starting your Dear Diary Project. The first, and the most important, is to pick the character that you’re going to use for your Dear Diary Project. After that you have to decide what format you’re going to use for your Dear Diary Project, and what your word count goal for each entry will be. Usually I spend a whole week on the preparation process and write a separate post for each, but this time around I’m in a bit of a hurry so we’ll cover all three today

Picking a Character

This is the most important decision for you to make about your Dear Diary Project because all the other decisions will be based on the character you choose. It’s important to pick a character that you’ll be able to live with for thirty days–kudos to you if you can do this exercise for your villain–and a character who you feel the need to develop more. Remember that you’re going to be working on this for thirty days, and that the odds are you’re not going to ever see this published except maybe on your blog. You want to get the most out of it, so make sure that you choose a major character.

When you’re picking your character, remember that you’re not just picking a person, you’re picking a time period. You can write about them as a kid or even just the thirty days before your story begins. You can write the first time they fall in love, or the first time they thought they fell in love. (Because everybody believes they’re in love at least once before they really are.) Just pick a time that will be interesting to write and that will show a lot about their character and how they became who they are during your story. I don’t recommend writing a Dear Diary after your story, because it won’t really help show who they are when it begins. I also don’t recommend doing it during the story, because then you might get sick of your story. Besides, you already know what happens during the story.

For my Dear Diary Project I’ve usually chosen major characters in whatever novel I happened to be working on most actively at the time. This time around is no different: I’m choosing the main character of my novel, Riana. I’m going to make it during a difficult, but typical time in her life. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to develop Riana and to develop the customs of the place she came from. You should seriously consider what part of your character’s life would be most useful to you to explore. This is a fun exercise, but at its core we’re trying to learn something useful about character, and that’s what you have to remember.

Picking a Format

Because this is a diary, it can come in all different shapes and sizes. It can be made up entirely of poetry. It can include quotes that are important to your character, life philosophies. It can be written as a letter. Or it can be written as a log, with just the date before every entry. Really, it’s whatever your character’s journal would be like. Make sure that the format really speaks to who your character is.

I named this project the Dear Diary Project because the first one I wrote had ‘Dear Diary’ at the beginning of every entry. If that doesn’t fit with you or your character, there’s no reason to stick with it. You could even have a modern-day character experimenting with journalling for therapy for the first time. This project is whatever you–and your character–want it to be.

Picking a Word Count Goal

This should also be based largely upon who your character is. Some characters like to ramble, and they like to think through all of their problems on the page. Some characters will keep a distance even on the printed page. Some are concise and some like purple prose and run on sentences. This isn’t for publication, so the most important thing is to be true to the character.

A really poetic character who journals entirely in poems might have a one page goal instead of a word count goal. A character who’s really busy might have a 250 or 300 word count goal. A character with lots of time who likes to think about philosophy and write down their thoughts might have a 600 or 700 word goal. Don’t make it too long though, as most people wouldn’t seriously write a 1,000 word diary entry every day, and you might find the word count really hard to meet.

What to Remember

To make the most out of this exercise, you need to pick a character who you’re going to spend some time with, and who you need to get to know better. You also need to pick a time (and possibly place) in their life that you know something about, but not too much. Then you need to ask your character what kind of diary they would write–long, short, prose or poetry? Figure it out with your character, and make sure to always let their voice come through above your own.

On Wednesday I’ll talk about starting your Dear Diary Project, and I hope you’ll start writing your character diaries with me on September first.


About Dianna Gunn

I am a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. My first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now through The Book Smugglers Publishing.

Posted on August 29, 2011, in Goal setting, Prompts, Short Fiction, Workshops, Writing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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