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Step 5 of the Snowflake Method

Sometimes hearing voices can be a good thing.

Authors often struggle with making their characters more than two-dimensional figures or, worse, just names on a page. Sure, physical descriptions and actions—such as a nervous habit or a peculiar hobby—can add dimension, but one of the best ways to differentiate one character from another is by giving each his/her own voice.

When a character has a distinct voice, the reader might not even need “Adelaide said” or “Zeb asked” because the words, phrasing, and cadence of the dialogue will speak volumes.

What does any of this have to do with the Snowflake Method? Read on!

What Randy recommends

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

Step 5: Write a one-page description for each major character and a half-page description for other important characters.

  • Each character synopsis tells the story from the point of view of each character.
  • Total time: “a day or two”

What David did

When I first read that, I thought, “You’re asking me to write the same story five different times? Great.”

In the name of science, I followed the instructions and discovered quite a bit of value in this exercise. As alluded to above, it forced me to think about voice very early on. Since each of the starring teens was telling his/her story, I had to decide on vocabulary, sentence structure, and so forth.

It certainly helped me to get to know my main characters better than I did before.

And interestingly enough, I didn’t end up with five identical stories. While each protagonist covered the same main plot points, their individual accounts focused on disparate aspects of their adventure. Better yet, these first-person journal-like entries pumped emotion into the tale.

My half-page descriptions for two additional characters—a key side character and the villain—forced to me flush out more details surrounding the main conflict. Sometimes character motivations can get muddy while writing a rough draft; Step 5 helped me map out who is doing what, when, and why.

To my surprise and satisfaction, I completed the exercise in less than five hours.

Rather than publish all six pages of output here, I’ll instead share the first paragraph for each of the five protagonists. That should be enough to illustrate not only my overall approach, but also the subtle variety in voices.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Lorenzo Lopez / Sir Larpsalot

I’m fully in character when our supposed patron reveals himself to be the big bad: The Lord of the Rangs. I trusted him, so it’s on me. We hold our own against his enchanted boomerangs, but Brutus and Tom Foolery collide. Trent calls timeout because he twisted his ankle. He’s pissed at Mak, and she’s pissed at me because I, the party leader, led us into a trap. She says I’m too weak. Right on cue, Jon throws out an I-told-ya-so and volunteers to take my place. Before Asher can calm everyone down, Trent reminds us all that it doesn’t matter. This is our last adventure. I try to find a time we can reconvene before Asher moves away, but Trent says he’s done. As with the big bad, I’m helpless to stop him—and his brother—from leaving.

Asher Brzezinski / Elvish Presley

This final larp is meant to be my masterpiece, but it all falls apart when Trent tweaks his ankle and everyone starts arguing. They start talking about whether they will continue to larp when I’m gone. I’m not sure whether to be glad they aren’t replacing me as GM or sad that these characters are officially sidelined. I’d be willing to find some time for The Final Battle before we leave on Saturday, but Trent is done. So much for a happy ending. Trent and Jon leave, but Lorenzo and Mak stick around. It’s awkward. Mak offers to help me clean up, but I turn her down. I just want to be alone.

Makayla Schmidt / Brutus the Bullheaded

I hate today. It’s our last larp, and when we’re done, I have to say goodbye to Asher. Of course, Trent ruins it by running into me and spraining his ankle. Even though I’m not really mad at any of them, I yell at Lorenzo for not killing the Lord of the Rangs when he had the chance. Then Jon and Trent and Lorenzo are arguing about whether we’re going to hang out anymore. Seems like I’m losing all my friends today. Trent and Jon leave, but I stick around until Lorenzo leaves. I don’t have the guts to tell Asher how I feel about him.

Jonathan Hawthorne / Master Prospero

When the Lord of the Rangs shows his true colors, I’m not at all surprised. Asher knows how to tell a story, sure, but I’ve read so many fantasy stories that very little catches me off guard. I tried to warn Sir Larpsalot, but he never listens. Alas. It’ll be a glorious climax, and I’m prepared to unleash my highest-level spell. Tom Foolery and Brutus the Bullheaded are less formidable, however, and they collide. Because Trent hurt his ankle, we have to stop. It’s disappointing. Worse, everyone starts arguing, and it becomes crystal clear that Trent is intent on disbanding Good Company—even though I could easily take over the role of GM after Asher leaves. Trent storms off, so I follow. Mom says we have to stick together.

Trent Hawthorne / Tom Foolery

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about our final romp in the woods. Yeah, it’s sad that it’s coming to an end, but we’re going to high school in a couple of weeks. It’s for the best. We should’ve stopped a while ago. But I know Jon needs this, and Lorenzo and Asher are excited, too. So then we’re fighting the Lord of the Rangs, and clumsy Mak runs into me. Game over. I’m done. We don’t have to finish the campaign. Real life doesn’t work that way, either.

The next step

Having gotten to hang out with my protagonists—and actually hear their voices—has me more excited than ever to start writing this book.

Too bad I still have five more steps to go in the Snowflake Method!

Next, I’ll take on Step 6: expanding the one-page plot synopsis into a four-page synopsis. It doesn’t sound particularly exciting. Is it even necessary? Find out in May!

(Why not next month? Let’s just say I have a special announcement reserved for April.)

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