As I mentioned in last week’s post, I spent a few days recently at the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland), taking a digital break and doing a little mental refresh. The weather was good, the fireworks were spectacular, and it was great to disconnect for a little while. Now that I’m back and the holiday decorations are up (mostly), it’s time to work on my manuscript.
Though I don’t have a daily word goal this month like I did in November, I’m trying to follow Jilly’s advice and to make sure my story doesn’t get lost in the holiday / year-end crush.
Right now I’m focusing on getting to know my characters a little better. I thought I knew them fairly well as they moved through Act 1, but by Act 2 I realized that knowledge was a little too superficial. Yes, I know who they are and what happens to them during the story, but I don’t quite have their character arcs nailed down as well as I’d like to and I’m still trying to flesh out some background details. We’ve talked about “character” on the blog many times. The posts here, here, and here provide some practical exercises for learning about your characters, and there is a good post here that talks about character arcs.
One thing I’ve always found helpful, when trying to get to know my characters better, is to think about how they would act in everyday situations. Since we’re in the midst of the holiday season, I’ve been trying to uncover how my characters feel about the holidays.
My heroine, Cassie has a strained (at best) relationship with her family. She’s intelligent, competent, and focused on her job. Her apartment may have a kitchen, but picking up take-out food is more her style. Not likely that she’d spend the holidays baking cookies or hosting holiday parties. It’s more likely that she’d volunteer to work on the holidays (in order to avoid seeing her family) or dig her battered hiking boots out of the closet and head for the hills. There might be a string of twinkly lights haphazardly draped around a window or something in her apartment (who can resist twinkly lights?), but that’s about as festive as she gets. She finds big family gatherings confusing and a bit unsettling.
My hero, Nicolai, is very different. He’s from a big Greek family (think along the lines of My Big Fat Greek Wedding), where the holidays were always a big deal, filled with food, family, noise, and traditions. Even though he might only be in town temporarily, his apartment would be decked out for the holidays; possibly because one (or more) of his family members had come and decorated for him. Although his family drives him crazy at times, he loves the holidays and finds Cassie’s bah humbug attitude and her relationship with her family to be baffling. She’s completely different from the type of females he grew up with.
Now I’m off to take Nancy’s recent advice and write some back-story scenes for Cassie and Nicolai to get a better idea of when and how their attitudes were formed. I can’t wait to see what else I discover about them.
So, how do you think your current characters feel about the holidays? Are they scrooges, merry elves, or something else entirely?