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Thursday 300: NaNoWriMo Character Development

Okay, it being October, I’m starting to get semiserious about NaNoWriMo prep. I’ve changed my idea twice now, but I think this one is going to stick. I’m going with urban fantasy, which I’d initially thought to not do since I’d figured the market has to hit the saturation point fairly soon, but my trips to the bookstore so far indicate that the genre is still pretty healthy. However, I think the vampires/werewolves aspect is about to reach saturation point, so I’m doing something a bit different. My MC is descended from a line of sirens, works as a lounge singer/maybe bartender in a Nashville nightclub, and totes a Stradivarius that contains the psyches, I guess, of her ancestors.


Plot is still vague. I tend to develop my characters first and get more of a plot later. One of my favorite techniques for developing character, and, as a side-effect, story, is the character interview. Author meets character. Yup. It also helps, usually, to get all the fourth-wall breaking out of my system pre-NaNo so I don’t resort to it for word padding.

Usually. I make no promises.

Anyway,  I’m here posting my first “interview” with my MC, Shay Donovan.

I do have some nebulous thoughts about the story, which the interview alludes to, but since most everything is still sort of vague, I’m not (yet) going to explain it.**

So yeah. The creative mind at work.*** Here goes.

Character Interview: Shay Donovan

Amanda: Okay, we’ll see how this goes as I don’t really have any questions prepared and want to use this as my Thursday 300 post so I can kill two birds with one stone. And I’m leading off with a cliché. That does not bode well. Ack! Another one!

Shay: So do you want me to be snarky about that or comforting or what?

Amanda: I don’t know. That’s why I’m doing this character interview. It worked sort of well for my Every Day After project.

Shay: Except for the fact that you never finished it.

Amanda: Okay, I think I’d prefer you to be comforting. I don’t think you’re snarky. First question: How do you like being a lounge singer?

Shay: [shrugs] Well, it pays my bills, doesn’t it? [pause] I mean that seriously. I am solvent, aren’t I?

Amanda: At the moment. I’m not really seeing major financial difficulties as a point of tension in the book, even as a subplot. But go into a little more detail about your job aside from the financial aspects. Have you found your calling? (And you can ignore that I’ve just put in yet another cliché. This is a writing exercise. Clichés don’t count.)

Shay: My calling. Well, considering that I’m descended from a long line of sirens, that I get paid for singing is mostly a good thing. I guess. I don’t like that I have to be careful and not let myself go all-out, so to speak.

Amanda: That would be on account of potentially causing people to kill themselves.

Shay: Which you do need to develop a little further, you know. Yes, I know I’m based in Nashville and therefore landlocked, so it’s not like I’m going to cause hapless sailors to crash on hidden rocks and drown or whatever, but how exactly would people in a nightclub be lead to their deaths from the beauty of my singing? Walk into an amplifier and electrocute themselves?

Amanda: Well, it’s a thought…

Shay: Keep thinking.

Amanda: What did I say about the snarkiness? I know this is an urban fantasy and all, and it’s like the thing for the main characters to be smart-alecky, but I’m trying to buck tradition a bit here. I mean, sirens in Nashville, that hasn’t been done yet. I don’t think so, anyway.


Amanda: Hey! I’m already past 300 words according to OpenOffice’s counter. Score!

Shay: And you were actually considering the “Tuesday 200” as opposed to the “Thursday 300.”

Amanda: Gotta keep the alliteration, you know.

Shay: Well, written blathering has never really been your problem. Think you’re going to get the novel done in 100k or less?

Amanda: It could happen. Particularly if I have a decent plot drawn out. Speaking of, so your Stradivarius gets stolen at some point.

Shay: I know, and if I could kill you with my song, I’d do it now.

Amanda: You’re a lot meaner than I thought.

Shay: Probably your own latent antisocial tendencies. So my Stradivarius is stolen by my as-yet-unnamed archenemy who’s even more evil than the– Quit staring at your split ends! You’re not getting anything done. Keep at this. You don’t have to give up on it just because you’ve already hit 300 words.

Amanda: I know. Sorry. I really envy Stephen King and his navel stories. Wish I could feel like a story is just getting pulled straight from my navel to the page. It is sort of strange that he’d pick the navel rather than the brain or the heart, but then again back in the 1600s or so, the bowels were supposed to be the seat of emotions rather than the heart. At least, that’s what I remember from Freshman English…

Shay: Your mind goes to the strangest places. I could wish that someone else created me.

Amanda: Well, you’re stuck. I’d apologize but I’m still not happy with you talking about killing me with your song.

Shay: Hey, you’re the one who envisioned the “death song” as always being on the peripherary of my consciousness, flicking about the corners of my brain, just waiting for me to hum a bar or two.

Amanda: And it gets worse when you play the Stradivarius.

Shay: Why– Oh, it’s because it has the spirits of my dead ancestors in it, and their combined, er, siren-ness gets a little difficult to ignore.

Amanda: Hey, that’s progress! Only I hope it doesn’t sound quite so lame or unoriginal when I’ve fleshed it out a little bit.

Shay: Watch me be comforting! [clears throat] There, there. This is only the development process, and you’ll only be writing the first draft. Editing and excising of the lameness will come later.

Amanda: That kind of helped. I guess. But anyway (and here comes my fourth cliché) the Stradivarius is kind of a double-edged sword, because it does make you more, um, siren-like and powerful, but if you can harness the…

Shay: Don’t do it! Keep your hair in that ponytail.

Amanda: [puts hand back on keyboard] Right. But if you can harness the power boost (sounds like a crappy Japanese fighter game, “power boost”) and use it for your more positive abilities—the happy songs that are more life-inducing and healing and all that—then that’s a good thing. And I’ll wordsmith that later. Not sure I want to mention “happy songs” when talking about your particular abilities.

Shay: Yup, just keep up that mantra. It’s just the planning stage for the first draft. Edit later.

Amanda: See, that’s the kind of supportiveness I like!

Shay: Well, you’ve got me saving a stranger bleeding profusely from the abdomen in the first chapter. I’d hope that’s indicative of at least a modicum of niceness.

Amanda: We may have to dumb down your vocabulary a bit, though.

Shay: Hey!

Amanda: No offense.

Shay: Offense still taken.

Amanda: Just remember that I’m giving you a Stradivarius to play. That should count for something.

Shay: It’d count for more if it didn’t get stolen.

Amanda: The when on that is still up in the air. It could get played out into the sequel, if there is one.

Shay: In which case the theft would last across books. You’re not helping any, Helms.

Amanda: I’d apologize, but it’s a writer’s job to make her characters’ lives as sucky as possible before fixing things. Otherwise there’s no drama or tension and nobody will want to read the book.

Shay: [grumbles]

Amanda: Well, I think I’m calling it quits for now. I’m going to blame my low blood pressure. Hope it’s nothing serious.

Shay: Most likely momentary. But of course if it’s still low when you try to donate blood next week, you should probably head to the doctor.

Amanda: Aww, see, you are nice.

Shay: And I’d be even nicer if I got to keep the Stradivarius.

Amanda: Not happening.

Shay: [grumbles]


*Hey, saturation point or no, I figure there might be some crossover appeal. Don’t judge me.

**Plus I’m sure the explanation would hit more than 300 words, so I’d prefer to hoard that for another Thursday 300. I’m lazy that way.

***Can be a frightening thing.

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