Here’s what I worked on this afternoon.
Okay, well, I filled it in, too.
Earlier this week, Jenn Hubbard blogged here about reading actor Jeff Griggs’ book Guru. You should read Jenn’s post to see all she got out of the book, but the thing that stuck with me was her realization that our characters need to work together at times, not always be in conflict.
I started thinking about this as supporting each other, or at least having a connection. And I started asking myself what connection and conflict each of my main characters have with each other.
Enter the chart.
The biggest struggle was, honestly, creating the chart. I am chart-o-phobic. Flow charts are totally beyond me, and even this “simple” one that you see here got me all confused as I started entering info. Had to back out, look at it again, slap myself in the forehead a few times, and restart.
I don’t know if you can read this very well, but the main characters’ names repeat across the top and down the left. Basically, the rows show conflict and the columns show connection. I think. Or maybe a better description is that all the cells UNDER the shaded stairway show connection, while the cells ABOVE the shading show conflict.
To give you a clear (?) example, Nate (formerly known as Love Interest #1) and Gideon (formerly known as Love Interest #2) have the last two rows and last two columns. If you follow Nate’s row all the way across to where he meets Gideon above the shading, you can probably guess their conflict I typed in there—they both want Caro. On the other hand, if you follow Nate’s column all the way down to meet Gideon below the shading, well…you tell me what their connection is. I’m being generous (and wimpy) at this point and saying that they actually do both want Caro to be happy.
I’m not sure where this’ll take me, and I’m pretty sure (I see you nodding) that the info in the cells will change many times during the writing of this story. But for now it’s a reminder that the dynamics of a story work at many levels and that characters, like us, have complicated motives for their actions.
Some of which they’ll actually share with their authors.