Saturday, November 2, 2013

My NaNo Prep Work

The month of insanity for all writers has just begun and I wanted to share how I get ready for writing a story/novel in general. Now, my absolute favorite part of the writing process is the beginning, when I get to build an entire world out of nothing...well, not exactly out of nothing. To build a story I need the key ingredient—inspiration.

Everyday life is the first place to search for inspiration, but a hermit like me has a very uninteresting life! What do I do? I turn to other sources. Sometimes times just by listening to a song, watching a movie, or reading a book, the light bulb will go off. But I’m a visual person and it’s websites like DeviantArt, Pinterest, and Tumblr that feed my inspiration and creativity, and eventually give me ideas. I can spend hours and hours browsing, but eventually I need to make a choice. So, after a quick search, these three paintings have inspired me.

Forest Dragon by *AlexKonstad on deviantART

The Scorpion Salesmen by *AlexKonstad on deviantART

Dog- Mass Age by *AndrewRyanArt on deviantART

After I find inspiration and get a hold of an idea, I then start molding said idea. I think of the possibilities. I think of the impossibilities. I think of names, places, weather, problems, animals, plants. I play with the ideas, and since nothing is set in stone, I’m free to change my mind at anytime! At this point, I like to start taking notes.

I ground myself into my stories, by meeting some characters. So, the next thing I do is search possible names based on the setting I’ve chosen. From the inspiration pics I found, I have a desert setting, a robotic dog, and an earth dragon. Right away, I’m thinking futuristic western with Asiatic influence. With this in mind, I begin my search. There are a couple of sites that always help me with names.

Behind The Name – It lets you search by meaning—for example, if you want a name that means strong or bright—and lists names by nationality. It also has other cool features like Names for Twins, Name Themes, Anagram Names, etc. There’s also a sister site that’s called Behind The Name: Surnames

The Baby Name Wizard – It has a lot of the recent ‘invented’ names, after you click a name it suggest names for brothers, and lists possible nicknames.

Think Baby Names – A ton of interesting names come up when you use the random baby names generator.

Random Name Generator – It's my go to place when I need a disposable full name. The site also has link to other name generators like (Medieval Names, Japanese Names, Fantasy Names, Last Names, etc.)

When choosing names I often go for meaning and feel. I make a list of names that feel like the character I have in mind and if I like the meaning, then all the better. I also note down any other names that catch my eye, because I use those later for secondary characters. After fifteen to twenty minutes of searching—yes, I do take my time with names!—meet my characters:

  • Ayman (the “salesman”) – I liked the name because he’s a poor traveling sales man with only a robot dog and a lizard to keep him company, and it seems ironic for his name to mean blessed or lucky. It’s something that I’ll keep in mind as I write. I could choose to make him really lucky, so that he owns up to his name, or make him really unlucky.
  • Bia (the biobot/robot dog) – I made her female and really overprotective of Enki. The name is a diminutive of Beatrix, but this time I didn’t pay attention to the meaning. I just like the feel of the name Bia.
  • Enki (the earth lizard) – I couldn’t stop laughing with this one. He’s a little lizard and his name means lord of the earth. Plus, the name sounds cute.

Now that I have my characters, I start working on setting. I might even go back to the first websites and search for landscape pictures/drawings for more inspiration. I also start asking questions. LOTS of questions. Where do these people live? Nowhere. They’re nomads. What hardships do they have? They survive on whatever they sell during the day. What is the dynamic between the three? Bia is protects Enki and the mint plants he grows on his back (Why mint? I don’t know yet. Maybe Ayman got him because he likes to make mojitos). Ayman depends on Bia for security. She has xray vision and can spot a weapon before anyone even thinks of using it. Why would anyone want to attack him? To rob his wares. Why are they so valuable? Don’t know yet. And on and on the questions keep popping into my head.

The point of brainstorming is to try and find the story behind these characters, behind the world they live in. Notice, all the questions lead to possible problems and that’s exactly what I want to find. Problems, things that keep the tension up and move the story forward. I’ll also need solutions to the problems, but those might come later as write the story.

If after some brainstorming I haven’t found a story to follow, I do one of two things. I can go back to step one—find new inspiration, other characters, change setting—or I can hang on to what I have and write a scene. This is what I usually do. I mean. I’ve just met them. I need to give Ayman, Bia, and Enki a chance to impress me, right?

So, I write a scene. Any scene. A cute scene? Ayman meets a lovely girl who wants to buy his wares (I still haven’t decided what he sells), but doesn’t have enough credits to buy them. He gives one his wares to her for free and she brings him food the next day. An action scene? A group of men comes for Ayman. He leaves the girl in charge of his market stand with Bia watching, and slips into an alley where a fight ensues. Ayman shows to be very proficient at killing. (This leads to more questions. Why is he proficient? Where did he learn? Why do the men want him?)

By the end of all this prep work, I should have a set idea of what the story is going to be and where I want to take it. Writing more scenes will help me see things clearer, but I don’t make any final decisions on a first draft. And this is why NaNoWriMo works, because it forces us to keep moving forward without worrying about final decisions. It’s all about momentum, about writing 1,667 words or more every day without looking back.

Find me in NaNoWriMo: Sylirama