If you follow my other social media, you may know that I just completed Camp Nanowrimo! If you’re unfamiliar, Camp Nano is an online community where writers challenge themselves to write a certain number of words in April. In November (the official Nanowrimo month) the goal is 50K, but for camp you can choose your own. I chose 100K.
After taking a year off since my last editing round, I’m returning to Selected – my fantasy murder mystery. So, as a way to reintroduce myself to the world and the characters, I challenged myself to spend the month writing backstory and scenelettes about them.
To keep things fun and interesting, I came up with a bunch of little games I could play with the characters. Here are some of them…
Pick two of the characters and a random word in the dictionary. Invent a scene. (This is actually something I do all the time, just because it’s a fun exercise and some of them turn out cute. Click Here for examples.)
Put together a group of two to five characters, and give them questions to ask each other. (I normally do these in MetaSpace so they can talk about being characters.)
Choose a page of the book at random and rewrite the scene making one of the following changes:
- Write from another character’s POV. The whole book is officially from my main guy’s POV, so it’s nice to get that perspective.
- Swap out one character for a different one. Challenging, and normally they ended in total disaster, but occasionally I could still make the scene work.
- Change so one character has the exact opposite view from the real scene. This one feels weird. And that’s the point. If I can do a full 180 on a character’s opinion and it doesn’t feel wrong, then that’s a signal that I need to do more work on the character.
- Change something in the environment – location, weather, time of day, etc. This is less about the characters and more about me training myself to pay attention to the influence of setting.
- Assign characters to various classifications – Hogwarts Houses, Divergent factions, D&D alignments, etc. It doesn’t get me a lot of words, but it’s great fun.
Write scenes from events before the book started. This was where the bulk of my words came from.
Fill out character surveys. Again, this is something I’ve been doing for a while. Click Here for examples.
Write what other characters were doing ‘off screen’ during the scenes in the book.
Overall, I ended the month exhausted and with VERY sore wrists, but I also really felt like I’d learned a lot about the characters. I’ve only been editing for a few days (technically I started before Camp Nano ended, because I just couldn’t wait any longer) but I’m noticing that it’s a lot easier to pick out the sections where characterization is weak or conflicting.
And honestly, even if I didn’t reap any practical benefits from the month, I’d still say it was worthwhile. I’ve been doing serious stuff for a long time, so taking a month to just frolic around in the playground of my imagination was glorious.