Prep Workshop by Debby Jensen – October 2014

By Debby J.

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I wanted to include some notes from the brainstorming session we did on Sunday, October 18. We had an amazing 15 people who up, both current WriMos as well as people who heard about the event through the library. Hope to see even more next time! Without further ado, here are the notes.

Part 1 – Introduction

  • introduced myself (Debby Jensen)
  • explained what NaNoWriMo is
  • three parts of plot (that we will also cover today in depth)
    • conflict
    • character
    • setting

Part 2 – Plot/Conflict

  • Most people think of plot and conflict interchangeably, myself included
  • Three (or four) types of plot/conflict
    • person v person
    • person v nature
    • person v self
    • person v supernatural
  • Quotes about conflict
    • Trouble is a necessary ingredient to writing.
    • Don’t expect the reader to wait too long before finding out what the problem is.
    • Slow down crucial moments.
  • Plot Outline
    • story goal: what the protagonist wants to achieve or problem he wants to resolve
    • consequences: the negative situation or event that will happen if the goal is not reached
    • goal + consequence = dramatic tension
    • requirements: what must be done in order to reach the goal. A checklist of events
    • forewarnings: events that show consequence is closer
    • requirements + forewarnings = emotional roller coaster
    • costs: what protagonist is willing to sacrifice. Can be self, pride, self-respect, money, security, attitude, or anything they hold dear
    • dividends: rewards the character gets along the way
    • prerequisites: events that must happen for requirements to be met
    • preconditions: small impediments to the plot. Stipulations laid down that make the goal harder to achieve.

Activity: select a slip of paper and begin writing. Or go here and generate a plot. Use the first sensible one produced.


Part 3 – Character

  • three true rules of writing: start it (and how to do that? Any old way – just put one word after another), out your heart in it (make us laugh, make us cry), part with it (don’t get it fit, getting written)
  • characters are story: stories are about what happens to characters, characters should be interesting
  • characters to do things: think of a scene of a ply, characters enter, say their lines, and leave. Start your novel, in the middle of a scene
  • characters need motivation: everything a character does must have a reason, know what your character wants and remind your reader of what character wants.
  • characters have things happen off the page: they exist before and maybe exist after your novel. They exist even when they aren’t on scene
  • Characters aren’t flat: they have quirks, strengths and weaknesses. Their weaknesses make the reader able to relate and form an attachment
  • characters talk: dialogue can start in the middle of a conversation, where the really salient parts are.
  • characters observe: avoid the abstract. This is where you “show don’t tell” or remember “seeing is believing
  • characters change: we are colored by our experiences and so the experiences of your characters should change them
  • characters have bad things happen to him: don’t be nice to them, hurt them, confuse them and make their lives interesting


  1. write a list of 5 objects your character might carry or own. Then write a series of short sketches describing how the character got the items or what it would mean if they lost the objects.
  2. write a scene from a time before your novel begins. Put the character in a challenging situation


Part 4 – Setting

  • setting can be big or small; backdrop or character
  • questions to ask when choosing setting:
    • where are your favorite places
    • what mood do you want your story to have
    • what settings are common to genre
    • what location would enhance your story’s conflict or theme
    • what are three critical elements your setting must have
    • do you want a real or fictional setting
    • is it a small or large scale location
    • do you want an urban or rural area
    • does the protagonist know this place or is it new
    • do you want something familiar to you or something that will require research

Activity: describe a setting using contradictory imagery (example terrifying preschool)


Part 5 – NaNo Prep

Instead of trying to put all the information I didn’t cover, I’m just going to link my favorite site for info.

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