Any way you damn well please!
But if you’re kinda lost, here are some things to think about:
- Who is your character?
- What does your character want?
- Why can’t your character have what they want?
See? That was easy!
What? You want more detail? FIIIINE.
WHO IS YOUR CHARACTER?
I want you to imagine a roller coaster ride at some theme park. Whichever one is your favorite. Personally, I like the Star Wars ride at Disneyland because it doesn’t flip me upside-down and doesn’t make me throw up. Also, STAR WARS.
But you can pick whichever one you want.
Okay, do you have that roller coaster in mind? Cool, cool. Get all those details in your head, because the roller coaster you picked is important!
The car you sit in? That’s your main character. Your readers are inside the car, riding around, going with it on its adventure.
The track? That’s the adventure. The plot, if you will. The story. The journey your main character goes on, with the readers riding along with it and experiencing the same thing.
The depot where the car drops off and picks up passengers? That’s what your car (character) loves the most. Its goal is to get back to that depot, no matter what twists and turns the track gives it.
Imagine getting into a roller coaster car that isn’t all that well-developed. Well-built. Whatever term you want to use. It was clearly just thrown together with some leftover screws and a truck tire and is that a toilet plunger? There isn’t even really a seat, just a bare spot on the floor you can sit on. You can’t enjoy the ride because you can’t get over what a piece of crap the car is.
That’s what it’s like to read a book with a boring main character. Like you’re sitting in a stanky roller coaster that probably has a family of raccoons living under the seat, and you’re so distracted by all the things you hate about the car, you miss the entire ride.
So for NaNo, take time to think about your character. Give your reader something nice (read: likable and engaging) to ride around in.
WHAT DOES YOUR CHARACTER WANT?
Your character (roller coaster car) wants to get back to the roller coaster depot. That’s its home. Or its business success. Or its love interest. Or blah blah you see what I’m getting at, right?
How horrible would it be to ride a roller coaster with no destination? You get on this roller coaster, and even though the car might be super nice, and the track might be thrilling or relaxing or whatever you want it to be, it just. never. ends. Hours you’re on this thing, doing loops and crap, and soon you’re sobbing because you’re hungry and it’s dark now and you have to go to the bathroom and everything is the WORST. You hate the fancy car, you hate the thrilling track, because all you want to do is go home and see your family.
Well guess what, sucka? You’re never going to see your family again. Because this roller coaster has no end. The only way to get out is to unbuckle and fling yourself from the moving car, abandoning it to careen endlessly forward until the stars burn out of their places in the sky.
So, to avoid your readers flinging themselves into the screaming abyss, identify what the thing is your character wants most in the world, or at least in this story. Do they want to get a promotion? Get the girl? Save their neighbor from the encroaching zombie horde? Drive back the orc invasion? Bake the perfect apple pie?
I don’t care what it is (okay I kind of care but that discussion is for later), just as long as there is something.
WHY CAN’T YOUR CHARACTER HAVE WHAT THEY WANT?
If your roller coaster car really wants to get back to the depot, you’d think the best thing would be to just loop the track around in a tight circle and come right back. Right?
‘Kay. Think about how boring that ride would be. It would be a snoozefest. No it wouldn’t, because it wouldn’t even be long enough to get a snooze. It would just be… awful. That rider would never come back, and they’d tell all their friends on Goodrides how stupid and boring the ride was.
So how do we fix this problem? You stretch the track out, add some twists and turns and loop-de-loops, and voila! You have a better roller coaster. That means your poor little car won’t make it back to the depot very fast, but the rider/reader is going to enjoy the trip way more.
Just as the car represented character and the depot represented goal, the track’s loops and spins represent opposition. Probably from the antagonist(s), but right now it doesn’t really matter where this opposition is coming from, just that it is coming and it’s keeping our car away from the depot.
So if your poor little car just wants to get back to the depot so it can *rolls dice* save its little brother from *rolls dice* a herd of rabid *rolls dice* swans, the first roller coaster loop can represent a dead car battery. The second loop can be a washed-out bridge. The third loop can be a BATTALION OF RABID SWANS. And then finally after one huge loop, the car can zip into the depot, rescue its little brother and live happily ever after.
For five minutes.
Until the next reader wants to take a ride.