Pantsing and Planning 2 OR Continuing the Snowflake Method

This is a continuing report from a previous post which you can read here.

As the time for Nano-ing approaches (I so love turning nouns into verbs!), I’m putting more effort into my planning in order to assure 1) a good solid foundation of a first draft to eventually revise and edit into a great book and 2) a nanowrimo win, since for me one of the biggest challenges will be fighting writers block. If I’m well planned, I’m less likely to have my muse disappear! So, I’ve been happily working through the steps of the Snowflake Method in order to discover just what my story is about and figure out all its little details.

Today I fleshed out my synopsis from my original post into something stronger and more detailed. This is step four in the method. Here’s what I came up with. The original synopsis sentences are in bold.

Tricked and captured by pirates who need her blood to complete a nefarious spell, a mermaid general is magically transformed into that which all mer-kind hate: human.

Mermaids and humans have hated each other for as long as either race can remember. Even during periods of fragile truce-like the one currently agreed to-battles and skirmishes erupt aplenty. During a battle against the humans, Princess General Darya is tricked by pirates and abducted. They imprison her in a glass box filled with water and bring her to land. Queen Morcan, her mother and a powerful sea witch, foresees the pirates’ plan to end the existence of mer-people. She risks her own life to save her daughter and all of her people by using a forbidden spell that transforms Darya into a human.

Unable to remember her former life in the water, she must now begin a new life and learn to live on the land.

No longer a mermaid, the pirates leave Darya to die in the swamp without any memory of who she is or what she used to be. She quickly finds herself in the center of a battle between the savages that inhabit the swamps and soldiers from the nearby border town of the neighboring kingdom. The soldiers rescue Darya and take her back to the city fort where the people of the city take her in and give her a new name: Delmara.

Even without the memory of her former life she has retained her greatest talents: her fighting ability and her tactical mind.

As the fighting between the savages and the soldiers continues, Delmara finds herself attracted to it. Caught in a surprise attack from the savages, Delmara proves she can fight and fight well. She is invited to learn more about fighting by one of the mercenary soldiers: Harlin, who immediately sees that not only is she a natural warrior, but a skilled tactician as well. With Harlin’s help, Delmara joins the mercenary army and quickly begins to rise through the ranks as her tactical skills turn the tide against the savages and repel them from the town once and for all. However, from beneath the ocean, King Merrick, Darya’s father, is convinced that his daughter has been captured or even killed by the humans and threatens to break the truce and start all-out war if she is not returned. Despite knowing the truth could prevent such a war, Queen Morcan keeps her secret in order to save her own life as the only person who can warn her people of the greater danger yet to come.

Talents that will make her a very valuable tool to the Kings’ Council searching for the answer to end the fight with the mer-folk once and for all.

After successfully defending against the savages, the mercenary army is then hired to fight the encroaching mermaid attacks along the coast; partly due to Delmara’s success as a strategist. She continues to prove her tactical genius as she wins battle after battle against the mermaids and devises new and improved ways to fight them. Her victories on the battlefield against the mer-folk draw the attention of the King’s Council; an organization of the rulers of all the land countries affected by the war with the mer-people. They make her an offer (that’s really an order) to lead their combined armies in battle against the mer-people and defeat them once and for all. Uncomfortable with the Kings’ plan, she nevertheless has no choice but to lead the army into battle.

Will she be the cause of the end of the mer-folk, bringing them into submission to the humans, and unknowingly betraying her own people, or will she remember who she is and be forced to leave behind the human friends she has gathered while living on land?

With mere days to prepare before the attack happens, Delmara finds herself at the front lines of a battle she has no desire to be a part of. However, the mer-folk have their own plans on winning that hinge on killing the human’s top general who has already killed so many of their own people. When, during the course of the battle, the criteria for reversing the spell is suddenly met and Delmara returns to her mermaid form and remembers who she really is-Princess General Darya-both sides are shocked into a cease fire. Now with the memories of both her human and mermaid life, Darya takes her rightful place as general of the mer-folk army and calls a retreat, leaving behind the very stunned humans and, most painfully, her dear and most faithful friend Harlin. Darya’s public transformation also brings to light Morcan’s use of a forbidden spell, and although it breaks his heart, King Merrick sentences his beloved wife to death.

Before I go any further I have to thank my sister and my best friend and her daughter AND her mother for help in picking the names. This is the first time I’ve looked into the meanings of names before picking one and sometimes I’d have a list of so many great names and find it practically impossible to pick one. So all of the input was extremely helpful and I’m quite happy with the names I’ve settled on.

Also, I seem to have a pension for picking main characters who go through name changes, although this protagonist doesn’t go through quite as many as my protagonist for Hunter, Hunted.

So far I like how the Snowflake Method is working for me. It really is helping me to discover and refine the details of this story. When this idea first started percolating in my head, I had a clear idea of the beginning and of the end, but the journey between was non-existent. This is actually a common problem I have when dreaming up my book ideas. This method is definitely helping me face that problem head on as I progress through each step. I’ll find out in the actual writing if all this planning plays off.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t skip step 3: Creating the characters. Here’s what I came up with, through step three, of the character that will either be my protagonist’s love interest, or at least her closest human friend. I haven’t decided which way I want to go with him yet. Any comments and suggestions concerning such would be very appreciated!

  1. The character’s name: Harlin (not much consideration on what his last name will be, or if he even will have a last name)
  2. A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline: A soldier in the mercenary army hired to defend the (unnamed) kingdom’s border from the attacking savages, Harlin meets Delmara when she is brought to the city fort where his unit is stationed and quickly becomes her closest ally as she proves her tactical mettle.
  3. The character’s motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?): To win the mermaid wars once and for all; settle down with Delmara.
  4. The character’s goal (what does he/she want concretely?): To survive his job as a mercenary long enough to have the money to settle down and leave the fighting behind.
  5. The character’s conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?): Taking longer to save because of his kindness and prowess as a soldier; finding out Delmara is a mermaid – the feared Princess General Darya.
  6. The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?): His stereotypical views of mermaids might not be true.
  7. A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline: Harlin meets Delmara when she is rescued from the swamp and the attacking savages that inhabit it. He is one of the first to recognize Delmara’s fighting ability and tactical genius and convinces her to join the mercenary army while also taking the responsibility if she turns out to be some kind of infiltrator. When hired to fight against the attacking mer-folk, her tactical genius against them proves to be far above the rest. Harlin follows Delmara when she is called before the King’s Council and asked (ordered) to lead the war against the mer-folk, all the time falling in love with her (if I decide to go that route). When he witnesses her transformation back into a mermaid, he questions all he knows about the mer-people and his feelings for Delmara.

I’d definitely say so far so good. The next step is more exploration into the characters and fleshing them out further. I need to find Darya/Delmara’s voice for sure before I start writing her story, but getting to know all my characters is something I’m looking forward to.

What outlining strategies are you either trying out for the first time or are tried and trued friends to the end?

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