snowflake image with the words

Step 3 of the Snowflake Method

A story cannot survive without strong people to populate it.

For me, a character often comes to mind before a scenario. But even when a premise for a plot pops into my head first, it’s almost always immediately followed by a character or two to set things in motion.

A personality trait or physical aspect comes next; later, snippets of dialogue from half-realized scenes.

Creating characters has always been my favorite aspect of storytelling, so when I saw that Step 3 of the Snowflake Method was making the major characters, I was eager to dive in. Since taking a stab at my first novel (Rebels and Fools) and up through this spring’s offering (Magic’s Daughter), I’ve always set aside time to explore my characters through various writing exercises before writing the first draft.

So how did the Snowflake Method’s approach to drafting character profiles differ from mine?

What Randy recommends

I took these notes from Mr. Ingermanson’s article about the Snowflake Method:

Step 3: Write a one-page summary for each major character.

  • Character’s name
  • One-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
  • The character’s motivation (abstract)
  • The character’s goal (concrete)
  • The character’s conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching his/her goal?)
  • The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn? how will he/she change?)
  • A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline
  • Total time: 1 hour per character

What David did

My usual process for detailing characters touched on much of this, though I’ve never distinguished between concrete goals and abstract motivations or consciously assigned an epiphany for each main character. I understood that major characters should transform in between page one and the final word, so these things tended to happen organically.

The Snowflake Method made everything so much more…intentional.

Frankly, I found it kind of fun.


What follows contains spoilers for the not-yet-released (and not-yet-named) book about Sir Larpsalot and his friends. Details are likely to change before publication, but if you don’t want to risk spoilers, skip down to here!

Sir Larpsalot

Character’s name: Lorenzo Lopez

Nickname: none

Alter-ego: Sir Larpsalot (human paragon)

One-sentence summary of the character’s storyline:

Lorenzo fears growing up and, particularly, the changes high school will bring, but his quest will give him the self-confidence he needs to survive.

The character’s motivation: avoiding change by keeping the gang together as long as possible

The character’s goal: rescue his friend and maybe get the girl—like a “true hero”

The character’s conflict: the true perils of an adventure and the necessity of real violence (mercy vs. justice)

The character’s epiphany: mercy and vulnerability doesn’t make him weak; he has no need to fear the future

A one-paragraph summary of the character’s story:

Lorenzo is not looking forward to high school or the corresponding breakup of his larping band. When Asher goes missing, he’s secretly thrilled that he and his friends get to go on a fantasy adventure—until the very real dangers present themselves. While he tries to be chivalrous and play the role of a valorous knight, Lorenzo is plagued by self-doubt and fear that he will fail his friends. In the end, he finds his courage yet chooses mercy over victory when facing Wizard Hawk in battle. After surviving his otherworldly quest, high school seems far less scary, and he knows the bonds he’s forged with his fellow larpers will last a lifetime, even if time and distance pull them apart.

Elvish Presley

Character’s name: Asher Brzezinski

Nickname: Ash

Alter-ego: Elvish Presley (elven troubadour)

One-sentence summary of the character’s storyline:

Asher plans one final larp for his band before his family moves away, but when a portal pulls the storyteller into another world, he’s thrust into the role of “damsel in distress.”

The character’s motivation: creating an enjoyable experience for his friends despite the circumstances (i.e. leaving on a high note)

The character’s goal: escaping his treacherous captor

The character’s conflict: the worry that he betrayed his friends by bringing them into the adventure and that they may not be able to rescue him

The character’s epiphany: despite their differences, he has created an effective team; his friends will rescue him

A one-paragraph summary of the character’s story:

Asher sees himself as a pretty clever young man. However, when a portal opens and pulls him into a fantasy world, his words fail him, and he ends up the prisoner of a sorceress. He tries to explain his captor’s mistake to her—that  the magic he and his friends wield is really just make-believe—but when that doesn’t work, he weaves a story about how the entire team must be gathered for their abilities to manifest. The sorceress does summon the rest of the larpers, but instead of reuniting Asher with the others, she uses him as leverage. He tries in vain to escape and realizes it’s up to his friends to rescue him. When the final battle unfolds, he plays his part in defeating the enemy.

Brutus the Bullheaded

Character’s name: Makayla Schmidt

Nickname: Mak

Alter-ego: Brutus the Bullheaded (minotaur berserker)

One-sentence summary of the character’s storyline:

Mak is used to be the toughest person in the room, yet her resolve is tested when faced with matters of life and death and forced to admit that sometimes a strong offense isn’t the best defense.

The character’s motivation: embracing her inner tomboy as Brutus the Bullheaded in a nonjudgmental environment

The character’s goal: not losing her cool while trying to save Asher

The character’s conflict: despite her badass act, Mak is as scared as anybody, but it’s easier to bury her true feelings (e.g. fear, affection, some girly tendencies) beneath a tough exterior

The character’s epiphany: true friends won’t judge you—not in the game and not in real life either

A one-paragraph summary of the character’s story:

Mak doesn’t get along with most of the girls at her school, and she can’t imagine high school will be much different. She’s become close with a group of guys and, despite getting crap for it, she feels more like herself when role-playing Brutus the Bullheaded than anywhere else. She does her best to stay in character while undertaking their other worldly adventure, but cracks in her proverbial armor inevitably appear. To her surprise, she feels even stronger after an emotional breakdown prior to the final battle. When they make it home safely, she even gives into the impulse to kiss Asher full on the lips.

Master Prospero

Character’s name: Jonathan Hawthorne

Nickname: Jon

Alter-ego: Master Prospero (human magus)

One-sentence summary of the character’s storyline:

Of the gang, Jon is least fazed by the existence of a fantasy world, and although his vast knowledge of tropes comes in handy, a big dose of humility will be needed to survive the experience.

The character’s motivation: showing off everything he knows and letting people know when they are wrong

The character’s goal: proving himself to be a better leader than Lorenzo

The character’s conflict: even though logical answers present themselves, he can’t seem to convince his compatriots to trust him

The character’s epiphany: sometimes unreasonable solutions can be as successful as rational ones (i.e. there’s more than one way to skin a sorceress), and there are more important things in life than being right

A one-paragraph summary of the character’s story:

A fan of fantasy books, movies, and television, Jon is best equipped to handle the trip into a real-life portal fantasy. He’s never missed a chance to question Lorenzo’s leadership, and this adventure is no exception. While he adds conflict to the team dynamic, he also comes up with solutions to many problems, using not only his knowledge of all things fantasy, but also outside-the-box substitutions for magic. His dissatisfaction with Lorenzo’s leadership nearly leads to a split in the group (with Jon’s brother feeling obligated to side with him), but in the end, he is forced to admit that they are stronger together than apart—and that he owes his friends much more than he ever realized.

Tom Foolery

Character’s name: Trent Hawthorne

Nickname: none

Alter-ego: Tom Foolery (dwarf clerogue)

One-sentence summary of the character’s storyline:

Trent feels he’s ready to leave larping behind and embrace the adventure of high school; he just has to survive the nightmarish quest first.

The character’s motivation: leaving behind childish things (and his brother) so that he can maybe get a girlfriend someday

The character’s goal: doing whatever it takes to get back to the real world (even if it means leaving Asher behind)

The character’s conflict: the others won’t leave without Asher, so he’s forced to play along with the dangerous game

The character’s epiphany: despite his sarcastic attitude, Lorenzo and the rest genuinely care about him; their friendships are worth preserving

A one-paragraph summary of the character’s story:

Trent begrudgingly finishes the larp campaign as a favor to his brother and the rest. Even if Asher weren’t moving away, he thinks high school is the perfect excuse to stop dressing up like a nerd. Of everyone in the gang, he’s the most upset by being transported to a fantasy world. Because the sorceress is hot, he’s willing to give it a go, though Jon and Lorenzo’s bickering grates at his nerves every step of the way. He fantasizes about ditching Jon, but when push comes to shove, he sides with this brother and brokers peace between the two factions. During the final battle, he fully embraces the ridiculousness of the situation and genuinely enjoys saving Asher’s butt.

The next step

Although many YA fantasy novels feature a single protagonist, mine will have five. Is that too many? Do all five party members need their own unique motivations? Will this prove too complex for the type of book it will be?

Time will tell—but only after I finish these planning exercises!

Next month, I’ll tackle Step 4 of the Snowflake Method: expanding the one-paragraph summary (from Step 2) into a full page.

In case you missed it: