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NaNo Prep Sessions – Week 1 | Your Characters

Happy October, friends, and welcome to the first of five NaNo prep sessions! I’m so happy you’re here with me <3 Let me give you a quick overview of what you can expect from these sessions, and then let’s get started!

Week 1: TODAY! It’s all about your characters, and I’ve got a free worksheet for you at the end!

Week 2: Next week will be all about your worlds, and there’ll be another free worksheet you can download.

Week 3: We’ll be planning our plots, and the last of the three worksheets will be available, too.

Week 4: It’s time to set your reading lists and think about your rewards! Probably the most important week of all, to be honest.

Week 5: One day away from NaNo, I’ll do my best to bring you a motivational speech. Let’s hear those battle roars!

If you’re not much of a planner, don’t worry. This might look like a lot of prep, but the last thing I want is for you to get bogged down by endless details! NaNo is going to be stressful, NaNonites. I’m here to make it easier for you, not harder!

But let’s get started, shall we? πŸ™‚

Your characters are vital to your book for obvious reasons – if you have no characters, you have no book. One of my favourite character plotting resources is a character questionnaire, but as I said above we don’t want to get buried under too much detail next month, so for now we’ll keep it simple. You can always add to it and flesh your characters out more after NaNo, when you have a much better idea of who your characters are. They’ll change and grow as you write, trust me!

Hidden on my memory stick I have a folder for every series and standalone I write, and within each of those folders I have a world file. Inside is the bare minimum of information about each country and each character that make up each story – and that’s what we’ll look at today, and what’s waiting for you to download below πŸ˜‰

While this worksheet may only contain the bare minimum, every point is important and will help you make your characters stand out and memorable without overthinking it (the last thing you want is to break the word tide while you’re writing because you can’t remember a fiddly detail). Are you ready? Here’s an example of one of my own characters from Darkened Light:

The key points are:

  • a picture or two of your character – I tend to use one portrait, and one other important feature; magic is a huge part of who Naavah Ora is, so I used that (although a picture of a an old book was also tempting)
  • their age
  • their speech habits
  • their dominant memory
  • their secret
  • their strengths
  • their weaknesses
  • their wants
  • their fears
  • and their treasured possession

Don’t worry if you can’t fill in all of those right now. As I said above, your characters will grow as you write, and will probably fill in the bits you can’t on their own. Moreover, not every character has a secret important enough to be mentioned. Perhaps always telling the truth is your character’s thing? (of course, if it is having a huge secret could inform the plot quite a bit…) Not everyone has an object they value above all others. Not everyone knows what they want from life (I sense conflict right there!).

No one expects you to have all the info right now, or even when NaNo starts in one month. Fill in what you can, and remember you can always add to it or make changes later on. This is just a guide for you to give you a head-start and to make sure you have some useful details about your characters. Be as detailed as you like – you can do short bullet points (messy pink hair), or you can add a little more (shoulder-length pink hair, faded at the routes so natural brown is coming through, self-cut so ends are jagged and overall look is messy). It’s entirely up to you!

If you want to do a little more, check out my series on character creation (third series down). The first post in the series has a questionnaire you can download in case the above questions weren’t enough for you, but I do recommend you take it easy for now. Having said that, you know yourself best, so do what you have to do to make NaNo a success πŸ™‚

Here’s your free worksheet, NaNonite:

NaNo Prep Week 1 – Character Worksheet

You can also join me on the official NaNo website here πŸ™‚

Next week we’ll be looking at your world and I’ll have another worksheet for you, so be sure to pop back for that!

Time to make tea and get some biscuits! Have you participated in NaNoWriMo before, or will this be your first year? Have you got any advice to share for new NaNonites, or those of us who didn’t do too well last time? Feel free to tell me a little about your WIP, too – what genre are you writing? Is it a sequel, or something new? Enjoy your tea, and let’s chat!


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Published inA Writer's Musings

13 Comments

  1. I’ve always wondered about NaNo (and always too lazy to google, which is why I’m asking a seasoned NaNonite), is it something you do on your own (set and count your goal) in private and then write, or is there like a public site, where you have to upload your progress daily? Would people then be reading along your draft, or is that not visible, just the progress?

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      You update your daily word count, but you don’t upload what you’ve written – first drafts should not be seen by anyone! πŸ˜› If you add me, for example, I’d be able to see your progress and vice versa. At the end you copy and paste everything you’ve written during November to declare you’ve hit 50K, a computer checks your word count to verify, and then you get a certificate at the end πŸ™‚ It’s great fun, you should join!

      • Ah, very neat. Not sure if I’m ready to throw myself into this madness yet :D, but thanks for the encouragement!
        How do you juggle your day-job and writing this intensely during November?

        • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

          Well, I only work from 1pm-7pm, so I write and edit in the morning, when I’m home. It takes me roughly one hour to 90 minutes to hit my daily word count, so the time I have in the mornings is perfect!

          • Ah, that’s really awesome! One of the downsides of 9-17 job, is that there’s not enough time in the morning to do something creative, but my brain is mostly exhausted when I get home (except of course when I brainstorm things when in bed and need to be sleeping).

            Good luck with NaNo and looking forward to your next book.

  2. Oh, and thank you for the nice NaNo prep-post πŸ™‚

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      You’re welcome! πŸ™‚

  3. Excellent resource,Sarina! Love seeing how you go about building your characters.

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      Thank you, Faith! I’m excited for NaNo now, all the prep makes it feel so soon!

  4. I love NaNo, I do it about every 2 years, because on the off years, I’m usually editing. I usually hit about 30,000 words. The last time was because I hit a wall where I had to stop and do research. This year, I’m working on a christian romance WIP about a famous pop star who becomes sick, goes into hiding, and falls in love with a pre-med student. I’ve already written half of it, but I need to finish it.

    This character sheet is awesome, thanks for the advice

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      You’re welcome! I hope you can finish your WIP, NaNo is such an excellent time for that!

  5. I really like this. Working on characters is what I like the most while plotting a novel and your character sheet is particularly inspiring. I’ve downloaded it. Thanks so much.

    I haven’t done much in terms of prepping in October, due to overwork, but I hope this last week will be a bit better.

    (You know, it’s funny. I do have a character in my trilogy who always says the truth and who has a huge secret. It’s quite fun to write!)

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