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NANOWRIMO, or National Novel Writing Month, starts November 1st (next Tuesday) and is a great motivator for writers.  Muses, though notoriously fickle, are also very competitive.  The challenge always brings out your muse.  But before you can bring that challenge to your muse, you must have the most important object of a novel: an idea.

I always start searching for a new topic for a story with the question “What If?”  What if Cinderella’s fairy godmother was actually an alien observer who wasn’t supposed to interfere with the natural process?  Once the idea is down, you can get to the real meat of your novel: The Idea. I am going to keep words in caps when I refer to a part of your story foundation in the rest of this article.

Your “What If?” scenario should give you an idea of the characters you will need.  If it is a solid Idea, it will lend itself to the creation of both a protagonist and an antagonist:

Idea:  Cinderella’s fairy godmother is an alien observer who has violated the ‘non interference’ protocols.

Protagonist: Cinderella’s fairy godmother on a scientific study of Earth and the interactions in a single mother family circa 1500. 

Name: Barbaranthalathsavulong – ie Babs.

Antagonist: Head Anthropologist in charge of the study

Name: Cathanlandulus – ie Cat

Now that you have your idea, and two main characters, you can work on your setting.  Your Idea will often lend itself to a setting.  For my idea, an alien observing Earth would be in some sort of spaceship, a hidden scientific research vehicle.  The setting would be either on Earth in that vehicle, or in space in the spaceship.  Don’t worry about dual settings at the moment, just give yourself one steady point of reference to begin with.

Setting: Observation outpost on Earth (hidden by cloaking nanotechnology)

Once you have all of these things down (in your head if not on paper), go ahead and write yourself a synopsis.  Writing it out should help you form a complete plot from start to finish and it should look like something you would find on the back of the novel cover:

Babs, a young scientist observing the behaviors of Earth females, has violated her code of ethics by interfering with the natural processes.  After subtly manipulation of cellular structures (pumpkin to carriage), Bab’s sends Cinderella to the ball.  All seems to be going well until midnight, when Bab’s interference is discovered.  Her supervisor, Cat removes all known changes to the surroundings and does her best to put things back in the normal order.

Caught violating the code of ethics, Babs is brought up on charges and stripped of her job.  Babs will be sent home in shame if she cannot prove that her actions were in harmony with the codes she has sworn to uphold. 

Searching for evidence to support her actions, Bab’s finds a book of Fairy Tales that references Fairy Godmothers all through the ages.  She brings this to the attention of the panel.  Other alien observers have done what she has and it has obviously become a vital part of the Earth Culture.  The panel judging her is split and Babs is let go on her own recognizance, to the bitter dismay of Cat.

Your synopsis is enough to get you started on your novel for NANOWRIMO.  Within the next few days, to get ready to sit down and write EVERY DAY, I will address the other topics you need to write your novel. 

Remember that the point of NANOWRIMO isn’t to write a bestseller, it’s to get you into the habit of writing every day on a single focused topic.  It’s a great way to train your muse to work toward a single goal.  If you can get your novel down in a month, even if it’s a short, poorly organized novel, you will have tamed that fickle muse and build the confidence you need to do the same thing again.  Each experience will make your skills stronger and your muse more focused.

Next blog will be the funnest part of writing (I think everyone will agree): The Character Worksheet.