The Nighttime Novelist...accomplishes more in about 240 pages than a dozen other "how to write" or "craft your novel" books have ever done.

--Helen Gallagher/Blogcritics




Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo Tip #2: The Magic Wand

Here's a basic of novel writing you should keep in mind from the start: Your protagonist must want something.

In fact, your protagonist really has two wants or motivations running in the book: first, the external motivation, or what she hopes to accomplish in the course of the story, and then the internal motivation, or why it's absolutely necessary that she accomplish it, why it's meaningful to her. Without a basic understanding of motivation--or worse, when you find yourself in the unenviable position of having a protagonist who seems to want nothing and appears to be slogging through the book just because there's nothing better to do--you're in for a tough time trying to make a complete narrative arc. (After all, a narrative arc consists of motivation, conflict, and that order.)

If you're having trouble seeing your protagonist's external and internal motivations, ask yourself the following:

Q: If the protagonist could wave a magic wand and make anything happen in the story, what would that be?

This points to external motivation or goal, what she hopes to accomplish in the story.

Q: Why would she want that to happen?

This points to internal motivation or goal, why the goal is personally important to her, or what need it fulfills.

When you understand both what the protagonist wants and why she wants it, and then put conflicts in her way which directly jeopardize that goal, you've got the beginnings of a sustainable story arc. How she deals with those conflicts in pursuit of the goal will fully reveal her character...and will suggest, perhaps, how the story should proceed and how it might resolve.

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