What do you want more than anything else in the whole wide world? Why don’t you have it? What is preventing you from getting it? Writing – or even reflecting – on this can put you in the right frame of mind for considering your characters and their own fondest dreams, dearest wishes, and highest aspirations. What is holding them back from realizing them? What are all the things that could potentially block them from their dreams? What about their weaknesses and faults? Do they have bad habits? Fears? Struggles? What potentially life-changing events could befall them?
In “Ready, Set, Novel!” Baty has a series of exercises designed to assist you in plotting against your characters, devising ways to prevent them from reaching their goals and generally making life difficult for them. The workbook lays everything out so clearly, it is calming. Seeing the innocuous boxes and lines on the pages ready to be filled in with all the dastardly things you will do to hinder your characters and make their lives difficult, gives such a feeling of control, it inspires confidence.
Baty has devised a list of five steps to writing a story. He calls them “The Five Secret Steps to Story Building” and I will share them with you here.
1. Construct the Canon. The answer to the question “What does your main character want more than anything else?” IS the canon.
2. Build the Mountain. You must inflict pain on your character, stack a mountain of setbacks in front of him. This will make it much more satisfying when he finally achieves his dream.
3. Light the Fuse. It will take an inciting incident that pushes against his canon to set him in motion.
4. Plot the Problems. “Exciting plots have characters encountering problems right from the get-go….Creating mini-problems to build up to the mega-problem is the best way to keep readers reading.” (pg. 55)
5. Meet Him or Her on the Other Side. The character who emerges at the end of the book is changed from the one who set out at the beginning. It is important that readers see this transformation.
And now, go forth, indulge your evil genius and devise setbacks, conflicts and tragedies to inflict upon poor, unsuspecting characters.
Baty, C., Grant, L., & Streit, T. (2011). Ready, Set, Novel!:a Writer’s Workbook: Plan and Plot Your Upcoming Masterpiece. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.