However, there is a certain satisfaction in these closely-written sheets, and they have actually become life-savers for me so I will oblige Bree and the rest of you by explaining this method of Character Profiling. I like to call it "The Rummaging" and you may do the same. Surely another author-or-thousand has done this same method, but since as far as I'm concerned I made it up, I will take the time to post about it for your enlightenment.
Essentially, it all came down to this: my strengths are my character-interactions and their behavior on-page. My weakness is plot. I could banter and spar and cockawhoop all day long, but you might never get to that crucial scene that you're aching to read. And I go into my novels knowing that I will need to focus specifically on the plot. I've learned that and now it's not quite so much of a pain as it used to be - I'm growing used to having to drag plot from myself. Isn't that ridiculous? Some people have plots squirming out of their heads constantly; I have people. Que sera, sera. When I got temporarily out of temper with The Baby, I knew it was only because I had used up what plot details I'd thought up at the start of the project. I always have a beginning and an ending, but I seldom know the in-between. I had a handful of amazing characters but nothing for them to do.
That's when "The Rummaging" began. It started as a way for me to ask my own questions about Lord Darron Ap-Brainard, and to answer those questions in the best way I could. Questions like:
Who is he?
Where does he live?
Why not the House of Polaris?
What is he prepared to do in order to keep a member of the House of Rushes on the throne?
- Things like that; questions I didn't know the answers to myself, but that I knew would be vital to me understanding and portraying Ap-Brainard correctly. The funny thing is, in a way it's like a Beautiful People exercise, only...different. See, I Rummage: I ask myself sensible, pertinent questions and answer those questions with as much detail as I can, and the results are striking. I didn't stop at Ap-Brainard: I moved on to Smidgen and Starling and The Admiral and Leona and John Brady and Richmond, and there are still many more left to Rummage out. The best part of this exercise is that it builds plot on its own... I cannot set up a series of cause-and-effect and plug people into it. That does not work for me in the slightest; I have to dig and delve in my people and figure out what they do. That builds the plot quite apart from me. I found out certain characters have duplicity with which they certainly didn't start. Others have heroes who are part of Crissendumm's mythology that has a direct effect on their political tendencies in the current story. I don't use completely the same questions for each character. Some are similar (i.e. I often note where they live) but others vary widely. Smidgen is one of the only characters who has a defined hero. Starling has a dream that is complicated and multiplied by a certain friendship. The Admiral has more responsibility and depth than many realize. But there was one question that helped with plotting more than any of the others:
How did they get involved with The Baby?
This question sets me up perfectly because I have to be able to provide an answer, and that links people to each other and then to events and all of a sudden, through this stack of question-and-answer sheets, I have the plot I was searching for. I spent most of yesterday afternoon finishing off most of the profiles, and my sense of direction with this story came back as I trusted it would. The only thing left to do is to go back through all the sheets and assemble the various details into one long timeline so I don't leave out any of the important details that have made "The Rummaging" a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
One of the best things you can do for your own writing is to know your strengths and weaknesses and watch those weaknesses with a close eye, doing things like "The Rummaging" when need be. I promise it is worth any of the extra work; I can't tell you enough how pleasant it is to sit down, pull Smidgen's sheet out of the stack and know exactly where he is supposed to be at what point in the plot. Bones, people. Bones. You've got to have a skeleton or all the skin in the world isn't going to bring the thing to life. Now that all its bones are in order, The Baby is back in business. I cannot wait to show you the thing in its entirety someday.