Story Arcs and Character Sketches: Helpful?


I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo (and NaNocamps) for a while now. I usually hit my word-count goal, my novels’ crazy first drafts however are yet unfinished. This is because After the one month ride, I realize the idea is too under-developed to be a real story.

They get better each time, but not good enough for my super-procrastinator self to get down to fixing and revising.

Why is that? I kept on wondering…

Trying to learn the craft of writing, I’ve come to discover that the main problem with my story ideas, was that I didn’t know them as well as I should.

I knew parts of each of them, but not all the necessary parts.

I’m a semi-pantser. Meaning I can write with nothing but a first line to go by, but if I wanna get somewhere, I better have a partial outline ready first.

My previous outlines however were too vague, or that’s what I think now.

Maybe if I had a better idea how the story should work (the ups and downs), I’ll get the conflict both inner and outer for my MCs better.

The world of writing offers many tools, and I met two: Story Arcs and Character Sketches.

So, I went in and wrote out (graphed) the story arc for my poor future NaNo novel, but when it came down to my MC’s sketch, I stopped half-way.


Because, I just couldn’t feel it.

I like how the story arc put the skeleton down for the story as whole. But knowing every little detail about my MC right now is… Impossible.

Does this mean I don’t know her enough?

I don’t know.

All I know is that I can’t imagine getting to know someone, anyone let alone my protagonist, the way of 20 questions. It’s just not me!

Sure I know how she looks like, what she’s wearing on the first scene of the novel. But only because that’s the first time we’ve met. I would like to get to know the person in that scene the same way I do/did the people in my life.

A vague, perhaps untrue, first impression and then the discovery of little things along the way. I want to be surprised by how the things I’m going to put her through (or attempt to anyway) will affect her both on the in and outside.

So, What do you guys think?

Do story arcs and character sketches make the writing easier, better, or do they steal away from the joy and surprise of meeting new worlds and new people?



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