It's back to work on my Middle Grade WIP - Ghost Fishing. Last I left it, I had a rough outline, about two chapters done (about 6000 words), and a desperate need for "coastal locations" up and down the Atlantic coast of the United States.
I read the rough outline and those two chapters and decided I like where it was going, just not how it was getting there. Also, after a lengthy revision of my YA fantasy, it struck me how weak my preparation was for this MG. I'm pretty sure I was lining myself up to write a protagonist to whom no reader could get close. Jacob's a great kid, but I just didn't know as much about him as I needed to.
What to do? What to do?
First, I'm switching from 3rd person-limited POV to 1st person, past tense. My original intent was to give it a kind of fairytale vibe, which IMHO 3rd person-limited does justice. Now, I'm thinking less fairytale and more of a fast-moving, hip style. Okay, maybe not hip.
Of course a POV switch doesn't solve everything. Some time ago, I picked up a copy of Dramatica Pro, and fiddled with it off and on. The reason I never stuck with it is that I am a Gen-X'er, which means I have zero patience and require immediate satisfaction. I am part of that original MTV generation (as in one cable channel with music videos, VJ's Martha Quinn and JJ Jackson). It's a handicap, especially when it comes to writing.
Well, I stapled my butt to the desk chair, fired up the software and gave it a whirl. What's good about this thing is that it forces you to methodically work through the preparation. It's not really an outline, per se, although I believe I'm about to head into that last section of the storyguide which is something like an outline maker. It forced me to think of the logline up front, which is basically that elevator conversation about your book. It's probably good to know what that is before you write the story. It also really helps you nail your theme - to narrow down the elemental issue at the heart of the story, something I never quite figure out until somebody asks me what my theme was and I'm left with no choice but to make something up on the spot.
I walked through the characters - all of them - what they're like and what they do. Then, I identified the main and impact characters. The main is easy - in my case, it's Jacob, the protagonist (although it can be someone else). I like the idea of the impact character, though. Usually, the impact character is not the antagonist. This person is actually somebody who has a wholly conflicting world view from the main character over a central issue of personal interest to them both. In the end, either the impact or the main character will give in and change their view. The term "impact" is appropriate because this character will have the greatest impact on your main character.
Early on, I discovered I was missing this character. I had someone in the back of my head that I'd never written down. But as I dug in and experimented, this character jumped off the screen at me, yelling, "Pick me! Pick me!" This character (Mila is her name) belongs in this story. She's the impact character and is perfect in that role. I can already see how much more depth she'll add to both the story and to Jacob.
The more I went through it - illustrating the various perspectives of the overall story as well as the main and impact characters - the deeper I understood my characters' motiviations, where they're going to go, and what the goal of the story really is. I didn't need this for Urban Mythos, but it seems to be doing the trick for this novel.
So, yeah. That's moving along. At the same time, I'm actively researching "locations" that will help fill in the details of the several adventures that will occur along the way. I've found a very cool sight in Delaware Bay, involving a totally bizarre and potentially haunted light house. I'm also considering Chincoteague, Virginia (mostly because that's where one of the ghosts in this story died a hundred years ago), as well as Jekyll Island, Georgia. I mean, c'mon. Jekyll Island? That's an awesome name!
If you have any ideas for coastal towns with any haunted and/or peculiar history, especially small islands just off the Atlantic coast of the U.S. let me know!