If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that last Saturday I used the first three steps of the Snowflake Method to begin plotting the Regency Romance novel I plan to write for NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t read that post yet, I recommend going back and checking it out here. This week I worked on steps four and five.
I found these steps harder than I expected.
I think that I’m just used to doing things in a certain way. And that certain way is usually a bullet point list that isn’t necessarily linear, at least not at first. And this isn’t how I typically develop my characters either, though I do see how useful it is to think of the point of view of every character for the duration of the story. I’m not sure yet, because I haven’t actually written it, but I think that this may result in characters that are better motivated overall. After all, I have to actually think about what each character is actually doing during the story. This may help me out with subplots as well, which if I’m being honest, has always been a weakness of mine. I am typically very sparse in my writing. Very straightforward. This may help me lend some complexity to my plot, which is awesome.
Still though, this is harder than expected. It feels closer to drafting to me than my outlines typically do. Yet, it’s not drafting. I don’t know. It’s caused some wires to get crossed in my brain.
Anyway, let’s talk about it.
Step 4: Expand your plot paragraph into a 1-page plot synopsis
As always, if you want more detail about what these steps are all about, I highly recommend going to Randy Ingermanson’s page here.
I think one of the problems I have is with the expansion of each sentence into its own paragraph. I guess there’s a part of me that wants a little more guidance. What exactly should each of these paragraphs contain? (Do you want him to write your book for you, too, Robin? Geez.) Anyway, I did the best I could.
I took this paragraph from last week:
An awkward, late-blooming debutante goes to London for her very first Season. When her mother informs her that this will be her only chance to marry before being banished to the country forever, she is determined to find herself a husband. The surly widower with whom she has formed a friendship and is falling in love with informs her that he never intends to marry again. Her attempts to secure a match with a handsome young rake leave her in a compromising position that could ruin her prospects forever. In the end, she and the man she loves live happily ever after.
And expanded each sentence into its own paragraph:
Having spent the entire 22 years of her life away from high society, a debutante named Jane is eager to spend her first Season in London. Though her mother regrets agreeing to go to London in the first place and complains about town nonstop, Jane is hungry for new experiences. As Jane moves into society, she is intimidated by all the social rules that everyone else seems to understand naturally, but she has never learned. She often makes a fool of herself by either talking too much or too little, and never about what she should. Though Jane was able to make a friend in Lady Arabella during the first half of the Season, she is abandoned when Arabella marries.
Jane is left alone to fend for herself among the ton. Though she tries, she cannot seem to comport herself in the way Lady Arabella advised her to. When she makes a fool of herself at one of the Season’s largest ball’s, Jane becomes a pariah. Her mother declares that Jane is not fit for high society. She informs her that this will be her only chance to marry before they go back to their solitary life in the country forever.
With time running short, Jane becomes determined to find herself a husband. She attends every social gathering she is fortunate enough to warrant an invitation to. Her inability to socialize properly often makes her a target for mockery, but there is one upside: She gets to spend time with a surly widower, George Beaumont, whose manners are nearly as odd as hers. Her fledgling hopes are dashed when he informs her that he never intends to marry again.
Though she is disappointed, Jane knows that she must still find herself a husband. She catches the attention of a handsome young rake, Jack Campbell. An enemy tries to warn her about the man, but she doesn’t listen, too focused on reaching her goal by the end of the Season. She even ignores George’s warnings, resenting that he sees her as foolish and young and unable to take care of herself. Her attempts to secure Jack’s affections leave her in a compromising position that could ruin her prospects forever.
As the gossip in town becomes too much for Jane, she begins to think that returning to the country may not be so bad after all. Much to her surprise, Jack does take pity and offer his hand to her in marriage, though it is obvious to her that he resents the idea. She goes to Lady Arabella to ask for help in making the decision. Arabella tells her that marrying a man that she cannot be happy with is a terrible mistake. Jane decides to go to George and ask him to marry her. In the end, she and the man she loves live happily ever after.
It’s a pretty simple plot, but you can see how the Snowflake Method gradually adds complexity. There’s a lot more here than there was last week. Now I have a good overview of the plot, though many details need to be filled in.
Though this step felt difficult while I was doing it, looking back now that it’s done, I think this was a much faster way to get the full main plot figured out than what I usually do. Overall, I liked this step and would recommend it.
Moving on to…
Step 5: Write a 1-page description for each major character and a half page description for each minor character
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be adding characters as I go. The fact that the plot is still pretty sparse means that I just don’t know how many characters I’m going to actually need. That’s okay. I think if I had to do this for every single character at once, I might get bored and want to stop. Part of this method is adding complexity as you go, so I will have to return to this step as I add more characters. Totally fine.
I decided to share the love interest’s description since, you basically get Jane’s side of the story from the above plot synopsis. And yes, I have decided to keep this as her story, though there is still a little part of me that isn’t quite sure that’s the right course. But, this is just the outline and I can change it anytime I want. So, for now, this is what I’m doing.
I started with this paragraph from last week:
A surly widower goes to London for the Season to escape the monotony of his life at home. When he meets an awkward debutante who is on the hunt for a husband, he befriends her against his better judgement. He suspects that she may be forming an attachment to him and that others are beginning to notice, so he informs her that he never intends to marry again. This causes her to look elsewhere for her marriage hopes, triggering both jealousy and concern when she finds a prospective suitor in a notorious rake. In the end, he changes his mind about marriage and they live happily ever after.
And turned it into this description:
It’s been three years since George Beaumont’s wife died and two since he’s gone to London for the Season. Though he doesn’t miss the false sympathy he received from the ton, he has grown bored with the quiet life. With some nudging by a friend, he travels to London once more. He finds that society is no less shallow than he’d previously decided. Sympathy for him turns to scorn when he can’t hold his tongue around the upper-crust of society.
George nearly decides to give up and return to the quiet life when he meets an awkward debutante, Jane Templeton, who is on the hunt for a husband. At first, he finds her ridiculous and tells her so. After watching her stumble her way through society, though, he begins to feel charmed by her awkwardness. If nothing else, he appreciates her straightforwardness in contrast with the rest of the ton. He befriends her against his better judgement.
The moments that he spends with Jane are the highlight of the Season for him. In spite of himself, he grows very fond of her. However, as time passes, he suspects that she may be forming an attachment to him and that others are beginning to notice. He had long ago decided that he would never again marry and he doesn’t plan to change his mind for her. He decides that the kindest course is to inform her that he is not an option for her husband-hunt.
Jane takes his declaration with dignity, and he finds himself strangely disappointed. He writes this off as foolishness and contents himself with enjoying her friendship. Jane, however, begins to look elsewhere for her marriage hopes. George is alarmed and jealous when Jane begins spending time with a notorious rake, Jack Campbell. He tries to warn Jane that Jack is not a good man, but Jane doesn’t listen to him.
George is forced to reexamine his own feelings for Jane as she grows closer to Jack. When Jane is put in a compromised position, George is desperate to figure out a way to save her. He is forced to realize that he loves Jane and indeed wants to marry her. He decides that he will propose to her, but in the end, it is she who breaks tradition and proposes to him. Though most men would not stand for a woman proposing to them, George is delighted to say yes.
This is basically the same as Step 4, only from the POV of a different character. This step definitely helps to clarify the motivations of characters other than the protagonist. It can be easy to just focus on the protagonist, and true you want the main character to be the most compelling, but the other characters should be well-rounded and motivated also.
I think that this is an effective step, but I don’t know that I would continue it in the future, at least not for every character. It’s a lot of work, and can feel a little repetitive. I think there are other ways to get the same result. Still, I think it’s worth giving a shot at least once, especially if you struggle with character motivations.
That’s it for Week 2! I hope you enjoyed this and that you come back again next week! Now I only have to do one step per week in order to finish before NaNoWriMo, which is a relief. The steps are getting more involved and I’m going to need more time to work on them.
Next week is Step 6. For reference check out the Snowflake Method site, but in short, I’m going to be expanding the above 1-page plot synopsis into a 4-page plot synopsis. I probably won’t be sharing the full 4 pages as that’s an awful lot for a blog, but I’m thinking of sharing one page as well as my thoughts on the step as a whole. Wish me luck!
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If you’re also giving the Snowflake Method a shot, tell me in the comments what you think of it so far.