Deciding on Character

by syaffolee

It’s exactly one month until NaNoWriMo and I have an idea. Actually, it’s rather more than a simple idea. I had already started planning in the beginning of September after I decided it would be really cool to do a story inspired by an off-road race across the Sahara called the Dakar Rally. This time though, it wasn’t the world building or the setting or even the plot giving me trouble. It was the characters.

Originally, I thought it would be pretty funny to have sea creatures do a desert race. My main characters had been a sea dragon and a siren, both murderers but guilty for separate crimes. They were going to be executed via hydrothermal vent until the Almighty Kraken gives them a chance to avoid being boiled alive if they enter the Dakar Rally. And win.

This was all well and good–until I started outlining the characters’ backgrounds. While these were interesting characters, they weren’t the right characters for the story. They would have their own conflicts doing the race, but these conflicts would mostly be external. Their internal conflicts, the sort of conflicts that I could use to transform the character during the course of the story, would be better showcased elsewhere.

That’s when I hit upon the idea of writing from the point of view of the car. I’m always looking for new and interesting challenges to do on top of the 50k for NaNoWriMo, especially since I’ve already done the event for over a decade. I’ve never written from the point of view from an object before, so why not try it now?

It was an interesting exercise developing this car character. I wanted the car to talk to the driver so I figured that maybe I’d use the radio for communication. Then I had to figure out how the car got its sentience in the first place. So I came up with this crazy back story of how an Edith Piaf-like lounge singer got enchanted into a race car by an angry club owner/wizard who was pissed off that she wouldn’t sleep with him. And to make matters worse, he gives the now enchanted race car away to a sadistic race car driver who turns his vehicles to scrap metal if he doesn’t win the race.

So for the main character, it’s win the race or get stuffed in a car crusher–never mind about the turning back into human part.

I usually don’t drastically change the characters I’m going to write about and not change the core story, too. But the heart of this story is basically a man versus nature plot (or rather car versus nature). The setting–the desert–is a character and I wanted to create a character who had the flaws and the motivation to make the struggle between the two compelling to me. Otherwise, why even set the race in the Sahara at all?

In some ways, going into this much depth with my character planning for NaNoWriMo is new to me. But then again, it’s not surprising either, especially since my world building and plot has already been set from the get go. A race is usually just a race. But when you start putting interesting characters into it, it hopefully turns into a story (and not a car wreck).

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