One of the things I love the most about National Novel Writing Month is the sense of community it fosters among writers. If college and its academic papers taught me anything, it’s that writers left unchecked will tend toward solitary time and isolation, and that while this might be incredibly helpful when you’re trying to make sense of dactylic hexameter I’ve found it to be a detriment to my creative writing pursuits. There’s something essential about being able to exchange feedback with others regarding fiction pieces, or at very least know that others are suffering along with me. Misery loves company, after all, and while I don’t find grinding out a word count to be as miserable as grinding through editing, I do like getting another set of eyes on my work, and turning my attention to someone else’s for awhile.
That being said, I’ve been stumbling across a lot of fabulous resources from people also doing NaNo (or writing in general). Here’s one: “Sunday Writing: Quick, What’s Your NaNo Story About?” It’s an encouragement to really focus and target your topic, with some wonderful examples to simplify matters.
Don’t stop there, though! The “Writing” category on Persephone Magazine has a ton of fantastic writing prompts, character development aids, and proof that you’re not alone. For fun if you’re interested, I’m including my responses to “Sunday Writing: Who Are You People, Anyway?” as pertains to my main character for 2012’s Nano piece, historical fiction set before/during the Civil War in the Confederate South.
Name: Eveline Marie Latendresse (‘Evie’)
Enneagram (or Myers Briggs or zodiac sign, as you like): INFP (Idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. Want an external life that is congruent with their values. Curious, quick to see possibilities, can be catalysts for implementing ideas. Seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. Adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened.)
What are 10 adjectives that describe his/her personality? Make at least three of them negative: Clever, educated, performative, manipulative, duplicitous, charming, sweet, enthusiastic, observant, impulsive
Height/Weight (or just build/figure): 5’5″, slender and almost boyish build.
Description of hair (color, texture, etc): sunny blonde, shining and straight, hanging down to mid-back.
Description of eyes (color, size/shape, etc.): rich indigo blue, almond-shaped and framed with long pale lashes.
Description of skin (color, complexion, etc.): creamy, pale and even, boasting her european heritage and upper-class life of leisure in the Antebellum South.
Any scars or tattoos? none.
Does she have a job? if so, what is it, and does she like it? she begins as a debutante, a life she finds disagreeable but tolerates for lack of options. When the opportunity presents itself, she begins working as a spy during the Civil War and finds this much better suited to her temperament and skills.
What does s/he like to do for fun? Secretly Evie loves being outdoors, being around animals and nature. Publicly, she enjoys needlepoint and providing piano accompaniment for her mother’s singing when entertaining guests.
Description of voice: Soft, sweet and controlled, perfectly feminine when there’s an audience. A bit deeper and less fawning in private or around trusted company.
What are a few phrases s/he uses more than once? Evie tends to dabble in profanity behind closed doors.
What are some physical gestures that are particular to her/him (i.e. toying with wedding ring, putting hands on hips): Clenching her jaw behind a forced smile, cocking her head to the side and blinking prettily to express skepticism, pressing fingertips to her lips to hide an inappropriate expression.
Overall health, and any health issues: generally good health.
Athletic, or not so much?: Has a baseline athleticism; she can swim and run and jump, but couldn’t swim the English Channel or run a marathon or jump a fence. All her parts are in working order and she is fit, but she is no athlete.
How does s/he usually dress? The height of style and fashion; a proper southern lady’s layers of garments, petticoats, corsets, adornments, hats, gloves, and accouterments.
What kind of car does s/he drive, or how does s/he get around? Horse or carriage or on foot, or for long trips a train or ship.
What’s her/his home like? Evie lives on her parents’ sugar plantation outside New Orleans. Her home is comfortable; the family has enough means to have nice things, but is too prudent and unstable to be overly extravagant.
Where did s/he grow up? She was born and raised in the same house on the plantation, though when she and her brothers began to come of age their parents bought a second home in the city limits.
In a few sentences, what was childhood like? Prior to adolescence Evie’s childhood was pleasant and unfettered; she most enjoyed chasing after her older brothers and their friends as they frolicked in the woods. She was granted more indulgence than most little girls might have been, but this came to a halt when she became a teen.
What is her/his cultural or ethnic background? French, French Creole.
Where did s/he go to school? A finishing school for girls, to finesse her etiquette, manners, and marriageable skills before her society debut.
What’s her or his home life like now? As a young woman, Evie has much less freedom than her childhood allowed; she must behave as a proper young woman of unquestionable morality to avoid bringing ruin to her family and spoiling any chance of a good marriage.
What are her or his closest, most meaningful relationships? She is very devoted to her siblings, especially Remy because he is closer in age to her. Evie is also very fond of Remy’s best friend Claude, who was with them almost constantly as children.
Is s/he religious at all, and if so, how? She is spiritual more than she is religious, and more curious about other people’s religious ideas than evangelical.
Is s/he political at all, and if so, how? As a lady, politics are not her place and she has enough other concerns that she doesn’t trouble herself with them until the war begins. With her brothers going off to fight and everything familiar or dear suddenly in an uproar, Evie becomes acutely aware that just because it ‘isn’t her place’ to think about such things does not mean she won’t be deeply effected.
Has s/he ever broken the law? Ever been arrested? She breaks guidelines of decency and propriety, but no laws.
What is s/he scared of? losing her family and being alone in an unfriendly world. Sitting idly by while everyone she loves is in harm’s way.
What is s/he annoyed by? foolish restrictions of what she should or should not do as a lady. Though she would never dream of challenging the social hierarchy enough to shake her family’s standing, she admires women who forsake high society in favor of becoming writers, teachers, and career-women.
What’s a good habit of hers/his? Meticulous attention to detail.
What’s a bad habit of hers/his? An occasional recklessness that sometimes leads her to do foolish things.
How does s/he act when s/he’s really happy? Adorably giddy and girlish, as circumstance and propriety permit.
How does s/he act when s/he’s really angry? Pacing and complaining with some profanity, as circumstance and propriety permit.
How does s/he act when s/he’s sad? Prone to sulking, curling up in bed, or staring out windows in despairing silence, as circumstance and propriety permit.
What kind of sense of humor does s/he have? she has a dry, tongue-in-cheek wit that relies on subtle nuance and plausible deniability in social situations.
How smart is s/he? Evie is educated enough to read and write in both English and French, and read a bit of Latin besides. She has a good grasp on the nature of people, but has turned a blind eye toward the major moral and ethical questions of slavery because the issue seems large beyond her reckoning. This deliberate ignorance will become problematic when the tumult of the war makes slavery an unignorable social issue.
How does s/he act at a party? Demure and correct at all times, especially in the sight of her grandmother or anyone who might be policing her behavior.
Favorite food, season of the year, type of music? Evie enjoys savory foods, especially seafood and soups, finding the way they warm her from mouth to core comforting. While she likes the increasingly festive carnival season in the spring, her favorite season is late in the autumn; with the harvesting coming to a close her family is able to spend more time together, and late autumn means anticipation is building for the coming social season, balls, dances, and operas. Sometimes she finds the anticipation of these things more enjoyable than the actual attendance of, because she has fewer restrictions in her imagination. As for music, she loves the opera, and is especially impressed with young soprano Adelina Patti.
Least favorite food, holiday, movie? Evie isn’t overly fond of sweets, with the exception of frangipane and almond pastries, and drinking chocolate.
What’s the worst thing that could happen to her/him? she could see her beloved family members die and live with the guilt of knowing she stood idly by and did nothing to help.
What’s the best thing that could happen to her/him? Her family could survive the war unscathed, and she could find a nice husband who would allow her some measure of liberty.