Sunday, November 10, 2013

SL workshop

Many thanks to Andrea of Virtual Writers, Inc for the invitation to come do a workshop in-world at their Milkwood studio. I had a great time!

Below is a brief summary of my presentation and the complete list of questions I posed for your consideration. Feel free to come back to these questions as needed - for this or any future stories you write.

Genre rules often dictate plot. Coming of age stories have an event that jump starts maturity, science has to play a large part of a science fiction story (otherwise just a ‘western in space’ –also a legitimate genre). I write erotic romance which means my stories have to have a happily-ever-after ending.

 So if the basic plot outline is already known to the reader (Polti’s 36 situations), how can you make your stories different? No two people are alike, and neither should be any two characters.

I’m a pantser, which means I don’t plot a lot of stuff out first, probably because my plot is genre-driven. I do, however, know my characters pretty well by the time I’ve finished the first thousand words. I keep a running record of information about the character as I go so I can stay consistent. This isn’t so important with a short story, but is vital for a longer work.

And that’s what we’re going to do today. You’re going to need a piece of paper and something to write with. Use your writing journal if you have one, or just scrap paper nearby. Alternately, type your answers into your word processing program or into a notecard here in SL for safekeeping.

We’ll focus on just your protagonist for now, so get him/her in your head. Write his/her name at the top of the page, if you know it, to help you focus.

Each of the questions I’m going to ask is designed to give you a fuller understanding of the person you’re creating. Not all of what you answer today will work its way into the story (JK Rowling has entire notebooks dedicated to each of her characters, MOST of which didn’t end up in the novels. But because she had a clear idea of who everyone was, she was able to write the memorable characters we’ve all come to love).

The questions are designed to help you “think outside the box” as it were. To consider parts of your character you might not have considered and that may or may not work into the story itself. Knowing this information, however, might affect how you write the character.

Some of the questions might not pertain to you or your story. Skip those and answer what’s important to your story.

Financial situation:
What social class does your protagonist belong to? Has he/she always been in this class?

How does your character feel about money? What does he/she do for a living?

Does money (or the lack of it) come into play when it comes to your protagonist’s relationship with other characters?

How does the character’s financial situation affect his/her education?


Every person has their own set of vocabulary, their own unique way of saying things. What words/phrases are unique to this character? If you don’t have one yet, make something up. What’s something he/she might say, for example, as a response to a simple question like, “How are you?”

What words does he/she use when expressing approval? “Neat-o, cool beans,” are examples.

What about disapproval?

Any pet names for people – or animals, for that matter. I’m thinking the stereotypical waitress who calls everyone “hon” or the street hood wannabe who calls everyone “bro”


Staying with your protagonist, what level of education does he/she have?

How does that level of education impact his/her financial status? What about word choices?

How will that level impact his/her relationship with either the other protagonist or with the antagonist?


What is the most important thing in the entire world for your protagonist?
Does he/she have it? If not, why not? If yes, how would he/she feel if it were lost?

Of the following, which is most important to your character: honesty, love, money, power?
How does knowing that about your character affect the story? Or you as the author?

What is your character’s biggest turn-on? Turn-off? Why? Come up with something from his/her past that makes them feel that way.

I’m going to give you some pairs of words. Choose the one that best fits your protagonist.

Watch TV/go to the movies (what genres?)

Watch a sport/play a sport (which ones?)

Read a book/read a magazine (what genres)

Wash dishes/dry dishes/use the dishwasher/

Make dinner/go out to eat?

So what do you know about your protagonist now that you didn’t know before? 

Okay, read over your responses and choose one piece of information to focus on. Take ten minutes to write either a scene for their novel that incorporates the answer or to jot down ideas for your novel from the answers you came up with. Go!

Play safe!

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