<$Susan Goodwill$>

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What's the Agenda?

Warning:Today's post is Geeky Writing Stuff
Jenny Crusie says every character thinks your story is about them.
Last night I was re-reading Writing Mysteries, A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America. Robert Campbell wrote a wonderful segment in which he talks about organizing and outlining your novel material.
He suggests using the outline function of your word processor. I have tried doing this in Word but I always screw this up. I either write an outline longhand or on index cards or in a separate document myself. But that part is pretty pedestrian. What rocks about what he says is the other documents he suggests: a Chronology, a Cast of Characters, Timeline of History, Address Book, Notebook, and a document he calls Agenda.
Each character as introduced gets a short bio in the Cast document. The Address book gets descriptions of each location as they are used. Maybe even maps. Chronology gets what amount of time has elapsed in each chapter. Timeline gets calendars and backstory events, etc. The Outline grows in detail as the chapters are written. If some seemingly inconsequential act or item from Chapter 3 may become useful in the endgame, he puts it in the Notebook and possibly in the Outline. But what I found coolest is the Agenda. This document is about what each character wants throughout the story. He says, "As a natural consequence of this last document the connections begin to form themselves, suggesting scenes and the flow of narrative."
Then the Agenda for your antagonist and protagonist should come down to this: What your antagonist wants should be in direct opposition to what your protagonist wants.
And all the other Agendas will tell you so much about your story. I can't wait. I'm going to do this today!