In October I plan to put up daily writing prompts, with the eventual aim of creating a writing course for across the month, with the hope that if you follow it you would end the month with a short story of about ten thousand words. Not bad for a month's work right? For me, this is going to be a way of preparing for Nanowrimo.
Today's blog entry is the steps for the first tendays, with the next two entries covering the rest of the available time. I'll be posting daily reminders on twitter using the hashtag #OctoberShortStoryCourse, and posting my work on my tumblr jchasestories.tumblr.com.
Start of the writing course. Find a word to describe the atmosphere of your setting (horror? dark? cyberpunk?) and write a fifty to two hundred word description of the setting.
Select eight names that you think would suit people in your world (this gets the horrible naming problem out of the way early on, you can always revise them if you don't like them). Then make short character descriptions (ten words or less - a young baker with a passion for renaissance sculpture, a firefighter who is recovering from a broken heart etc...), pair them up to the names, and pick out three to be your main characters (maybe two protagonists and an antagonist, but that's your choice).
For at least your three main characters, and any others you want to include make a short profile (approximately 150 words for each character: their name, age, title/rank, appearance, sexuality, likes, dislikes, fears, ambitions, clothes, personality and history. Include any other information you feel is vital.
Draw a diagram of your characters and the relationships between them, who they like/dislike, any siblings, relationships between them etc.
Write a one sentence summary of your story, and then try to expand it to a paragraph (no more than five sentences, after all this is a short story!) Also write three 100 word introductions between your characters: MC1 meeting MC2, MC2 meeting MC3 and MC3 meeting MC1.
Check that your plot fits the relationships, and if not revise one or the other. Then write a 100 to 200 word plot overview from the point of view of each main character - how do they feel about the events? What do they gain from the plot, what do they do? How do they feel at the start, and how do they feel at the end?
We've got to the end of the first week, and it's time to deal with fiddly questions about the setting. This is just a list of questions I tend to use to establish my world, feel free to make up your own questions that will help you with yours?
- What is the weather like? What seasons are there?
- How do the economy and political system work?
- What are the religious and/or scientific ideas that dominate thinking?
- What is the history of the society?
- What are typical education levels? Who has more education? Who has less?
- Are there any superstitions? If there is magic, how does it function?
- What is the state of medicine? How are disabilities treated?
- Are there a variety of cultures? How are they treated? How about outsiders?
- What are the roles of different groups? Is social status fixed?
- Which professions are there?
- What do buildings look like?
- What are the rules linked to marriage/homosexuality?
By the end of today, you should have a better view of how society functions.
What are the daily routines of your MCs? Write down a typical day for them, including what they eat and how they dress, their hobbies and occupations?
We are now over a week in, and we have our characters and world developed! We are doing great. Let's carry on.
Draw a sketch of your main characters - it doesn't matter how good or bad it is, just so you have a picture of them. Check that your work so far fits with the plot overview, and if not modify the overview.
Choose three or four short scenes - all but one of which should be things that happen before your story starts. The final one can be from the body of the story if you wish. Write out a paragraph about what happens, considering how characters interact and the personalities of your different characters.