If you haven’t been following Structure Saturdays so far, you can go back and check weeks 1, 2, and 3 for more information. In short, I’m testing out the Snowflake Method for outlining my NaNoWriMo Regency Romance novel.
This week was…okay.
It was all about the characters this time. As I said before, I do like thinking about the story beats from each character’s point of view. Just…something seems to be missing, you know? Let’s talk about it.
Step 7: Fill out more details in the characters’ charts
Since I’ve already shared with you quite a bit about Jane and George, I figured I would make this week all about Jack Campbell. By the way, I will be changing his name because I don’t love the Jack and Jane thing. Too similar. I just haven’t figured out what I want to name him yet.
Names are hard, okay?
For now, he’s Jack. And Jack’s character came together a lot for me this week. So, I guess that we can consider that a win for this method.
There’s not a specific character chart for the Snowflake Method, though it does suggest several things (birthday, physical description, etc.). I’ve used the suggestions on the Snowflake Method website here in addition to several other things that I’ve cobbled together from Scrivener’s character template and various other places over the years. Here’s what I’ve got:
Anthem: Dancing Through Life (from Wicked)
Role in Story: Minor antagonist. Red herring love interest.
Birthday: April 2
Physical Description: Sandy hair. Green eyes. Soft, plump lips. Wide shoulders. Relatively tall, but not as tall as George.
Defining Feature: Plump lips
Personality: Life of the party.
Mannerisms/Quirks: His eyes sparkle with mirth. He throws his head back in laughter often. He speaks loudly, with little care for who hears him most of the time. He is charismatic, which is why no one shuns him for his occasional bad behavior. He moves quickly and gracefully. He gives secret smiles that make people feel like they’re in on some private joke, even if they’re not.
Why Funny: Witty and lively.
Background: He was orphaned at a young age and sent to live with his uncle. His uncle was a workaholic who tried to impart the same work ethic onto Jack. Jack, however, learned the opposite lesson. He saw the way that his uncle worked himself to death and was determined not to let the same thing happen to him. Now he takes very little seriously. He enjoys living moment to moment and following his feelings, whether they lead him into infatuation, or gambling, or dancing. He does whatever strikes him as the most fun at the moment.
He has engaged in little flings here and there, but mostly with women who were not nearly so innocent as Jane. They knew their own minds and were savvy enough not to get caught up in anything that would ruin them. Jack is unused to interacting with someone that cannot always see where their best interests lie
Goal: To charm and seduce Jane.
Motivation: He enjoys being in love (briefly) and having fun. He enjoys causing a stir. And there’s a little part of him that feels sorry for Jane the pariah and thinks a little fun will help her.
Internal Conflicts: He does have a good heart, but he doesn’t always stop to think about the consequences of his actions. He doesn’t want to marry Jane, but he feels responsible for her predicament.
External Conflicts: Society thinks he’s a rake, which leads some to think scornfully of him, though not everyone, and he actually disdains those that think poorly of him but treat him well anyway.
Epiphany: That his actions have consequences for others besides himself.
Want: Infatuation. Fun.
Need: Love. Responsibility.
Fears: Being locked in a passionless marriage. Boredom. Working himself to death like his uncle. Allowing responsibility to sap joy from his life.
Strengths: Charming. Funny. Kind hearted.
Weaknesses: Careless. Driven by fear of becoming his uncle. Self-centered. Immature.
Vulnerabilities: Wants to think of himself as someone who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of him, but ultimately can’t stand to truly be the bad guy.
Tragic Flaw: Cares about other people, but has no actual idea how to care for them.
Contradiction: Is both caring and careless.
Shard of Glass: The uncle that raised him died of a heart attack, having rarely taken a day off in his life and stressed about everything.
Start: Only interested in having fun doesn’t care about what the ton thinks about anything.
End: Takes responsibility for his mistakes and learns that though he can live with a bad reputation, others may not be so lucky.
Notes: A young rake is forced to offer marriage to an awkward debutante whose reputation he has compromised.
Character’s Plot Synopsis:
Since the death of his uncle, Jack Campbell has sought only to find pleasure in life. He doesn’t wish to toil his life away only to die of a heart attack like the uncle who raised him. He has gained a reputation as something of a rake, but he doesn’t mind. No one expects him to be too proper or to offer any young lady his hand in marriage. He is able to have his fun without much interference from the ton.
Jack expects this Season in London to be much the same as every other. He looks forward to card parties, dancing with beautiful women, perhaps even causing an infatuation or two. He loves to be in love, but only for a short time. He doesn’t give too much thought to the hearts he might break, because he thinks everyone should be as carefree as he. He even considers himself to be a teacher of sorts in the art of not taking life too seriously.
As it turns out, his time in London starts out quite boring. He finds that some of society has turned their backs on him and those that haven’t have become very dull and predictable to him. He begins to feel that this Season will be an entire waste. Then he meets an awkward debutante, Jane Templeton, who he finds funny and charming in a strange sort of way. He decides that lavishing her with the compliments and attention that the rest of society denies her will be his amusement for the Season.
Jack enjoys Jane’s company, but knows that this is a woman he could never fall in love with. And, after seeing the way that she reacts to George Beaumont, and he to her, he has little concern that she will really fall in love with him. Even when the gossip’s tongues begin wagging, Jack pays no heed to the impression of attachment that is beginning to spread. One evening at a ball, Jack convinces Jane to go stargazing with him, however they stay out far too late. When they are discovered, Jack realizes that Jane’s reputation will be in jeopardy and his conscience bids him to marry her, though he does not want to.
He proposes to her, though he knows he does the job poorly. He can’t hide his true feelings on the subject, even to spare hers. For once in his life he must take responsibility for his actions. Though he knows that Jane almost certainly must say yes to save her own reputation, he desperately hopes she will say no. In the end she turns him down and he vows not to be caught up in such marriage plots again.
I like that Jack has a little more complexity than just a flat bad guy. He’s not putting Jane’s reputation in danger due to maliciousness, but carelessness—a trait that by the end he will have learned needs to change. And ultimately, he’s not really a bad guy even if he is the cause of some major trouble for our heroine. I wouldn’t even call him the antagonist (that honor, I believe, goes to Jane’s mother. Although I think internal antagonism plays a role in this story as well).
One thing that I worry about with these characters is that I’ve made too many outcasts. Jane is shy and awkward. Her mother is anxious and a recluse. George is snarky and disinterested. And Jack is a bit wild. Jack and George aren’t ostracized exactly, but they definitely don’t fit the mold of society quite right. I can’t tell if there is too much sameness here, or if it’s fine, maybe even commentary on how no one is quite “normal.” It might be all right, it just seems that this story about one misfit has become a cast of misfits, and does that spoil the point a bit?
That may be something that I can tinker with as I get deeper into the outline, or even the first draft. We’ll see.
As for the rest of the character chart, it’s pretty standard stuff. The website for the Snowflake Method doesn’t give a ton of details about what should be included in this step, so I’ve pretty much fallen back on the character chart that I’ve been fiddling with for years. Every time I find a new point that will help me understand my characters better, I add it to the chart. Maybe going forward I will be adding the “plot synopsis from the character’s point of view” that is part of the Snowflake Method. I think it could be helpful.
This was the last step that deals explicitly with characters, though I suspect I’ll have to go back and repeat this with any new characters that pop up during my outlining. I’m kind of glad this part is over. As I’ve said before, this is not my favorite way of creating characters and though I could see myself using some of the Snowflake Method in the future, I doubt I’ll be using it for characters again, at least not in this exact way. I’ve told you previously that I like to write vignettes of character backstory in order to help me build the characters. And only then do I start filling out charts like this. Maybe if I had spent more time developing the characters before starting this method, I wouldn’t have felt so much like I was pulling stuff out of thin air to fill out character charts.
Next week is our penultimate week! I’ll be covering Step 8, which you can find details on here. I get to make a spreadsheet! Essentially, what I will be doing is finally coming up with individual scenes. I have no idea how this is going to go. Will it be easier now that I have a 4-page plot summary to work off of? Only time will tell!
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