Pillar I in Plot Development Step by Step: Exercises for Planning Your Book by Jesper Schmidt and Autumn M. Birt begins with character. (I also have Plot Development, the main guide, but I am using the step by step guide to develop my novella I am writing during NaNoWriMo this November.)
The workbook takes the reader through the five main character types used in stories. The characters are the Protagonist, the Mentor, the Sidekick, the Antagonist, and the Love Interest. Today I will be exploring the Protagonist of my story. The workbook takes the reader through the usual questions; name, gender, ethnic background, age, height, weight, etc. I am choosing to share a picture instead of typing out the words. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words and I think this one is true to Ally. Not only her looks but her favourite escape, the water.
Protagonist Alessandra (Ally)
I decided on Ally as my protagonist, and my only Point of View (POV) character She is the main driver of the story, the one who has to face the conflict and find a way to reach the story goals while learning more about herself along the way.
Ally is an eighteen-year-old close to completing her high school requirements. In fact, she finished early, but she didn’t tell her parents so she could spend her free time following her dream. And, unbeknown to her parents, Ally’s dream is not to follow in their footsteps and learn to take over the cargo business that has belonged to her family for four generations. Instead, she is secretly applying to secondary institutions where is had a chance at a swimming scholarship. She doesn’t want to break her parents hearts, but she wants to follow her own dreams.
Living and growing up on a boat, an only child of two dedicated and loving parents was tough. She could not see the rest of her life entrapped in the metal jail where home was a transitory term. She wanted a home that stayed in place, where the neighbours were the same every night, her favourite cafe was around the corner, and she didn’t get motion sickness while she slept. A place where her ability to turn from ghost to ochre lobster in an hour would not be a big deal, because she would no longer live and work on the water. She would have trees to shade her home and to hold her hammock.
If it wasn’t for her best friend, Riley, she wouldn’t have lasted this long. Their sleepovers, at his parents house when his mother was at her healing practice instead of on the boat, were the best memories of Ally’s childhood. Those escapes showed Ally there was another way to live, and it wasn’t stuck on the water.
Morals, Needs, and Proactivity:
The book states, “Morals, or the character’s controlling belief, is how the character distinguishes between right and wrong.” To make the story interesting, Ally needs to have morals that push her goals out of her reach. For Ally, this would be her reliability and work ethic. While those are both great traits to have, they make her feel that following her dream, leaving the family business, is a betrayal to her family. Her parents count on her to be a part of the crew and to eventually take over the family business that has been passed down for four generations. How can she not follow her heart? Her family is precious to her as it is only the three of them.
Ally’s needs are for Love and Belonging when searching through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. She have safety, food, and the security of family and a career. But she needs the belonging of community. Of there being more than her parents and the friends they may see on and off the water. The ability to get a good nights sleep without nausea pills, staying with friends, or sleeping in her hammock in the woods would be amazing. Especially in the winter.
Proactivity is simply, Ally needs to be proactive. She needs to make the decision of how she intends to move forward, and follow that course. Before the novella begins, Ally applies for swimming scholarships at schools with business and marketing management programs. She chose a program with the most flexibility and would also be helpful to her parents cargo hauling business. It is a matter of waiting for the responses, and if she is accepted, sharing the news with her parents in way that doesn’t break their hearts.
Digging Deeper into Personality Type: Enneagram
Ally is an optimistic, supportive, and accepting person. She is willing to go along with the status quo to keep the peace. The cargo hauling business is important to her family, so it is important to her. Wanting to make her parents and herself happy, Ally is trying to find a way to leave the boating community without leaving her parents, to preserve the loving relationships they have.
Once I have developed the other main characters in the book, I will research how the different personality types interact with each other. I think it will be a great point of conflict and camaraderie, depending on the character! Most of us know how to push other people’s buttons, characters should do the same.