Finding My Character’s Heart

Maybe I haven’t found Casey’s heart exactly, but the essence of who he becomes in the face of unavoidable trials. Since I’ve been working (more or less) on the story for about two years and still didn’t know my protagonist very well, I have to be grateful to National Novel Writing Month for pushing me to overcome my ignorance. Because, yes, I’m lazy and have more WIPs in progress that would make sense even for someone far more organized and energetic than I am.

So the last few weeks have been fairly concentrated as far as prep work for NaNo goes. The plot has expanded, as has the number of significant characters, some of whom have major impacts on the plot, and on Casey, the protagonist. That’s all very satisfying, but there’s a special thrill when a character who has been, essentially, drifting with no clear goals in sight, “wakes up” and becomes aware of himself and his purpose. That would have to happen somewhere along the line, but without the pressure to be ready for November 1, it might have taken another year or so.

Unlike novels where you can create a plot and then punch in the characters, character-driven fiction creates much of the plot. Without knowing Casey, right down to his soul, the plot could have kept wandering around with no clear focus. For this particular story, that knowledge is especially vital because it ends with Casey committing an act of self-sacrifice. If that wasn’t believable, the story would fail completely.

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