The Dear Diary project originated as a very basic idea I found on the Wriye forums. The idea was to write a character’s journal for thirty days. The idea was originally dubbed ’30 Days in the Life of’ but I liked the sound of the Dear Diary Project. I thought it was a great idea, so I did two by myself and then began turning it into a workshop on my old blog to help other writers. It helped me develop my characters on a deeper level and get used to writing in their PoVs. To top it all off, I had lots of fun.
During the month of September, I will be running the Dear Diary challenge once again. The goal is to write one diary entry–it can be any format or length you choose–each day for a month. It helps you develop your character and get into the habit of writing often. Here on the blog I’ll be posting weekly exercises to help you get even further into the mind of your character, and discussing different ways to create a journal. At the end of the month I’ll start talking about starting your own journal and making the most use out of what you’ve created.
I’ll be writing one short–250 words–entry each day, from the point of view of Riana in Home. Riana is the main character in the novel I’m currently revising. She’s a demon, and Home is where demons live. It’s not a pleasant place, but she’s had some adventures there and I’d like to think about them more. It’s going to be a big learning experience for me because I don’t really know too much about Home–I have a basic image, but that’s about it. It should also help me dig deeper into her character and flesh her out.
Over the weekend, think about your characters. Which ones do you feel the most need to get to know better? Which ones have the most interesting stories? Whose background do you want to explore for a month? On Monday, I’ll give you the run down on picking your character, word goal, and format for the Dear Diary Project. In the meantime, go out and have a great weekend.
What are your favourite characterization exercises?
Are you still debating taking up the great noveling challenge that is Nanowrimo? If so, I’m here to tell you why you should attempt to write a 50, 000 word work of fiction next month.
1. Challenge It’s always important to challenge yourself. That’s how you grow as a person and as a writer. You might not think you can write 50, 000 words in a month or even 10, 000 words in a month, but you’ll never know unless you try. You’ll never surpass your expectations if you never challenge yourself. And until you’ve done it, you’ll never know what it feels like to validate your word count on November 30th with ten minutes left.
Thousands of people have written their first books with Nanowrimo. Some of these people have walked away with little other than an awful manuscript and a winner’s certificates, but others have learned a lot from the experience. Most of the basic things I learned about novelling I learned from Nanowrimo.
2. Community The community on the Nanowrimo forums is something entirely special, like nothing else I’ve ever seen on the internet. Thousands of people from all over the world, from all different walks of life, come together to write a novel in one month. They might not have anything in common except Nanowrimo-but at the same time, they might be very similar.
Age, gender, and race don’t really matter in Nanowrimo. We’re all people who love books, who love to write, and that’s all we need to know. We might not talk most of the year, but we have a special bond that will never disappear, and October and November are always lively. Nanoers are incredibly friendly and incredibly helpful.
3. Building Habits Participating in Nanowrimo gives you extra incentive to write every day and helps you to build good writing habits. They say it takes 30 days to make a habit, so why not write 1, 667 words every day in November, and see if you can keep writing 1, 667 words every day?
Even if Nanowrimo doesn’t influence you to write every day for the rest of the year, it’s sure to increase your productivity. Each year I write more and more in the off season. And so do dozens of other people. Some of us even do Nanowrimo-based challenges, which I’ll talk more about at the end of next month.
So, are you going to write a 50, 000 word work of fiction next month?
On Sunday night, in a park just a couple blocks away from my house, my boyfriend and I (and a friend of ours) were robbed at gunpoint. I spent a couple days away from the computer and I’ve been too tired to do much other than go to school.
The workshop is over not by choice but by necessity-it’s the end of the month, time to put the finishing touches on your preparations. There isn’t a specific exercise today, but it’s probably a good idea to do a general brainstorm for your story, maybe write down a couple of things you’re sure you want to happen.
Stay tuned for a ‘Why Everybody Should Try Nanowrimo’ post and a ‘October 31st: Preparing for Nano’ post tomorrow and Sunday. And get ready to novel!
Write 1, 000 words from ANY character’s perspective about fear.
Today’s exercise is mostly a prompt. You’re going to free write for fifteen minutes about your characters and how they fit into their world.
That is, you’re going to give each of your major characters (let’s say two main characters and two villains) fifteen minutes of free writing time each. You’ll be writing in first person, from their PoVs. It’s just a self-summary thing. Think of it as if your character were starting a journal. What would their first journal entry look like?
Go wild. Remember to consider things like education (how that effects their life and their writing voice) and politics (their political stance and what they think of politicians). Also remember to consider things like how health care or a lack thereof effects your people. People with very few rights and very little healthcare will have a very different outlook on life from, say, someone in Canada.
This exercise is about finding the voice of each of your characters and exploring that. Even if some of them never become viewpoint characters, it’s good to have a feel for their voice.
I’ll admit that I’m creatively rather burnt out at this point, and I guess you probably are too. Today I’ve just got a prompt for you.
Write a scene in which two of your most important characters learn something shocking to them. 1, 000 words.
Today’s exercise is very important but shouldn’t take too long. There is no recommended reading today, but I’d highly recommend looking through some of Limyaael’s Fantasy Rants.
Conflict is the thing that drives your story. It is your character trying to overcome obstacles. Conflict can be man/nature, man/other man, man/woman, or man/himself. The best stories have multiple layers of conflict and tension between characters, and between characters and their environment. Today you’re going to figure out the conflict behind your plot.
Remember that this is largely a brainstorming exercise. Don’t be afraid to branch off in different directions and follow your line of thought to its natural conclusion. These questions should help you figure out your plot.
1. Who is your main character? What is their main goal? Your character must desire something or be trying to achieve something. Everybody has goals, wants, desires. The main goal of your character should be a central focus of the story. My character Marla’s main goals are escaping the Queen’s grasp, finding Logan after they are separated, and restoring her family name’s honour. These goals pretty much make up the story.
2. What stands between your character and achieving their goal? How difficult is it for them to get what they want? Make this a point form list of notes. List anything that you can think of that could stop them from achieving their goal. Think about which options are most plausible, which ones have the most possibility of conflict, and which ones are most interesting. Pick three or four of your favourites.
The villain can be listed here, but there’s more about that.
3. Who is your villain? What is their main goal? Your villain is just as important as your main character. Does their goal clash with the main character’s? If so, how do their goals clash? Is it planned or accidental? Is your villain looking for a fight?
4. What stands between the villain and their goal? If the villain’s goal is to have the hero killed, for example, how does the villain intend to do that? What is stopping them? Is your character highly skilled in battle? Do they have friends protecting them? Is your character actively standing against your villain? If so, why?
5. What other conflicts will be going on? Are there outside conflicts that have some effect on your character? There could be a war going on around them without them being directly involved, for example. How do these conflicts change your character? Will other characters come into conflict with your main character? What kind of conflicts can you see your main character getting into?
My character Marla will come into direct conflict with several characters throughout the story, mostly the Queen and her family. Logan, her best friend, will also come into conflict with a lot of characters-partially defending Marla. They’ll probably also face some nasty creatures in the woods.
Write 1, 000 words about a character’s first kiss, either your main character or a very important side character.
I don’t have any questions today, most of my effort right now is going into tomorrow’s exercise. I do have a prompt for you though:
Write about the first time your character experienced violence from another person/saw violence taken out on somebody close to them. Try to make this scene 1, 000 words. It can be ANY character of your choosing.
You should have an idea of three or four of your characters by now. Today, you’re going to make a basic profile for each of the characters that you have already created. The Basic Profile template is the same as last year:
You should be doing this on a lined piece of paper, double-spacing between different sections. This sheet is meant to be a reference for when you are writing.
BASIC PROFILE-Character’s Name
Eyes: (colour/any unusual traits)
Hair: (length, cut, colour)
Basic Description: (what someone who saw them on the street would describe this character’s appearance)
Personality: (3-4 dominant traits in this person)
Basic Bio: (1-3 paragraph summary of their past)
Write 1, 000 words in which one or more of your characters get lost in a forest.
You’re not going to be writing any actual myths today-unless you choose to-but it is important to take a look at the mythology of your world. Today’s questions are designed to help you make your world a little more complex, and to give any religious characters you might have some more depth. Mythology is my favourite part of worldbuilding, so don’t be surprised if this exercise takes you a bit longer than usual. It’s not just that it’s my favourite-there are a million different things you can explore with mythology.
~What do your Gods do in mythology that lend credibility to their character? If you’ve already done Religion 101, then you have an idea of what your gods represent. A pretty good one at that. Now consider the mythology of your Gods. If one God is a troublemaker, what kind of trouble do they make throughout your mythology? If one represents water, what is their connection to water in mythology? Were they born of the sea?
You don’t have to spend a really long time on this. I suggest you answer this question individually with each God. Give each God a paragraph about how their role in specific stories echoes their overall role. If you need ideas, take a look at some of these Egyptian Legends.
~Are there humanoid mythological creatures? If there are humanoid mythological creatures, are they real creatures with a lot of myths surrounding them? How do they interact with humans? How are they said to interact with humans? If they aren’t real, how does mythology keep them real in the minds of the people?
If you want to create some unique humanoid creatures, regardless of how real they are on your planet, take a look at this list of 30 Famous Mythical Humanoid Creatures. There’s plenty of mythological inspiration to be had just by looking at our own world.
~Is myth passed orally or is it transcribed onto parchment or stone? If myth is passed mainly orally, then there’s a lot more room for variation. If myth is traditionally written, then it will probably make it from one place to the next with minimum damage.
Myth in Llyr is pretty much all the same because it has all been written and everybody in the kingdom is at least somewhat literate. Myth in The Isles of Uruk-Har, however, is fairly different from island to island. I still haven’t worked out how it’s different, but I know that it is, because literacy is only very recent.
~Are some myths extremely varied, and others universal? In any culture there are bound to be some myths that are universal or almost universal, with only slight variations. What are these myths? Which myths exist in most areas of your kingdom, but are varied every time? Which myths are specific to only one area?
The Uruk-Har have similar creation myths and afterlife myths throughout, with only slight variations. They even have the same mythological creatures-but the myths surrounding those creatures vary greatly from island to island.
~What is the mythology surrounding death? Has death always existed in your mythos? Several human mythologies (I don’t have any links, I read it in a book) say that death was an afterthought, punishment for some misdeeds of humans. But what if your mythology thinks of death as another part of life, a necessary evil? That could mean a society with a lot less fear of death.
What does the afterlife look like? Pre-Christianity, people usually all got put in the same place when they died. It was the place where people from all walks of life mingled. Judgement of souls existed and varied from culture to culture, perhaps the most interesting idea of judgement being Egyptian.
In my now-stalled Jihad series, those who die go to a Gray Land, but those who were most faithful and honourable go to the city of Phoenix. In Phoenix they live new, eternal, almost perfect lives.
~What is the mythology surrounding coupling? Is sex a sin? Is there such a thing as marriage? Is polygamy widespread? What about incest? How are these things treated in mythology?
There are many different directions you can take with this. Most pre-Christian faiths did not place so much importance on monogamy. Play with polygamy and remember that it didn’t ruin ancient civilizations, so it shouldn’t ruin yours.
Today I’d like you to write 1,000 words about mythology or folklore.
Law exists in every culture, and has existed almost since the dawn of humankind. There are many different kinds of laws. Today we’re going to talk about inheritance laws and oppressive laws.
Limyaael’s Inheritance Rant talks about the importance of inheritance and the different ways it can operate.
Limyaael’s Rant on Class/Caste systems talks about class/caste systems and how they operate.
~Are families traced via the mother’s blood or the father’s blood? This will have a profound impact on inheritance. While your inheritance may not directly follow the line to the first born son or daughter, if families are matrilineal it’s more likely to go to one of the daughters and if they’re patrilineal it will probably go to one of the sons.
Llyr is interesting in that children don’t all have the same last name. Both parents retain their original names unless they choose not to, and the first born gets the more powerful last name while the second gets the less powerful last name. They alternate.
~Do parents choose which child inherits, or is it always the first? The practice of passing on the property to the first born son is called primogeniture. It’s a widely held European practice, although perhaps not as important now as it was back in the day.
Does law enforce primogeniture? Do parents choose which child they pass on their property to when they die? Are there laws that stop daughters from receiving the inheritance, or sons if your world is matriarchal?
Note that the people who get the inheritance are the people in power. If daughters usually get the inheritance, it’s safe to say that they hold the real power, since they have the land and the titles.
~If there are no children, who gets the inheritance?
If somebody dies without children, does the inheritance go to a younger sibling? If there is no younger sibling, does it go to an older sibling? To an apprentice? What happens to the land if there is no familial heir?
~What laws exist to keep people in their class?
Are there laws that keep people from moving from one class to the next? These are probably designed to keep lower classes out of higher ranks-things like keeping peasants out of schools. What are these based upon? Magical talent? (For example, if the upper class all has magic, and the lower class has none.) Race? (I’m sure you’re familiar with the Jim Crow Laws, which kept blacks and whites separate in theatres, restaurants, and workplaces.) Language? (You may or may not be aware that Natives, Africans, and many other cultures have all been beaten for speaking their languages by Europeans.) What keeps the lower class distinct?
There might even be laws in place to keep peasants from acquiring noble clothing, if that is the only distinction between rich and poor.
~How does religion relate to these laws?
Religion has been used as a justification for oppression of all kinds throughout the centuries. Conversion to Christianity (thus saving these people from hell) was used as an excuse to enslave millions of people and to abuse milllions more throughout the Americas and Africa. Within Christianity there has even been use of Protestant versus Catholic as an excuse for the English to abuse the Irish, among other things.
Is your religion used to justify oppression? Are the oppressors and the oppressed from two different religious groups? Does the church have its own courts? Does the church have its own laws? Does it take active part in enforcing the oppression of the people?
~How many classes are there?
For a long time the classes were Peasants, Knights, Nobles, and Royalty. There was also a small class of artisans and shopkeepers. How many classes exist in your kingdom? How different are they from one another? Does slavery exist, and if so, who are the slaves and why?
List the classes of your kingdom, and beside each write a sentence or two about what makes that class unique and how they are kept in their place.
Write 800 words about Friendship from a secondary character’s PoV.