Ah, the New Year’s Resolution: high hopes of getting into shape, developing positive habits, and all-around improving ourselves. Those blissful last days of December, the optimistic first week of January….and then, errr! crash! bang! We’re back to watching Netflix in sweatpants, plowing through a bag of chips. There’s a reason you can find so much exercise equipment on Craigslist and at yard sales.
Focus is haaaard, and fiction mirrors life. It often takes a year or more to write a single novel, and that initial optimism and focus can quickly dwindle into a meandering mess. Our brains and lives are all over the place in a year’s time, and consequently, so is our character. The all-important character arc can get lost in the twists and turns of plot and grammar and chapter breaks and page turns and laundry and dishes and that 9-5.
So, here’s a suggestion:
Write down your character’s goals in the form of a New Year’s Resolution. Thinking of them as real people helps – and I’m talking main character as well as the antagonist and supporting cast. There will probably be multiple resolutions – ones your character has for herself, and ones that you, the omniscient author, have for her: What she wants. What she really needs. How she needs to grow. Superficial stuff. Deep stuff. Keep your list somewhere handy, so you can refer back to it when you feel yourself meandering.
Here are a few examples from my own work-in-progress, which is a dual-main character contemporary YA mystery. Hope this is helpful!
River’s (protagonist #1) resolution for herself: To independently get into Berkeley’s Innovative Psych program and continue her dad’s work.
My resolutions for River: To understand that her dad’s death was not an accident. To be able to accept help and love.
Nick’s (antagonist) resolutions: To get weekly massages, and maintain his tan through the winter. Oh, and continue getting away with murder indefinitely.
My resolution for Nick: To trap himself with his own overconfidence.
Whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or a combination of the two, it’s so important to have a firm handle on your character arc. Maybe you set out knowing, or maybe you figure it out as you go through your first draft. Maybe what you want for your character is a polar opposite of what they think they want for themselves, or maybe they convince you to do things their way on the second draft. Every writer and story develops differently.
I’d love to hear about YOUR character’s resolutions. Sometimes typing them out in a sentence or two can be revelatory! So please share 🙂
Here’s to a happy and productive 2016!