I've re-initiated work on Hero Games and realized that there really wasn't enough pre-planning done for this work. There was a good conflict laid out, most of the main plot was in place, and I had a whole double-handful of characters. However, those characters had almost no depth to them. I had images, which I had gotten from HeroMachine (thanks for the permission, Jeff), and I had a couple of character bases, borrowed from people I know. Mostly, I had a great world concept with lots of possibilities in it.
That, my friend, does not a novel make! I had already written the first few chapters, and I had done a fair amount of planning, using spreadsheets, on the game design which was part of the world concept. Fortunate, because that was what most of the first few chapters were about, introducing the reader to the game itself. Those first few chapters, by the way, were lots of fun, because they were delved from the body of research and planning that I had already done: the game design, and a few character bases/game-character concepts.
What I realized when I dove back in to the work, was that I was missing two things crucial to any good novel: subplots and characterization! I had an over-arcing, main plot that involved everybody, but nothing personal to the characters. There was no individualized subplot to give the characters drive, purpose, motivation. Without that sub-plotting, characters become flat and static. So I decided that I needed each character to have their own, personal subplot. Have I mentioned that this novel's characters include 11 player-characters, who each have 1-2 game-characters? A total of 23 main characters?! Quite a daunting task! Well, I did some thinking on it. For most of the game-characters, they are just an alter-ego of the player-characters. For instance, Paul is a person playing the game. He creates a game-character called Peacekeeper. Paul and Peacekeeper are the same person, with a different look, in different situations. I realized that the game-characters, like Peacekeeper, already have their plot: the main plot that drives the total story, and the general sub-plot of leveling up and advancing their character within the game. Thus, the game-characters don't need a separate plot; they are an extension of their player-characters. Ha! Cut my work load nearly in half with that one!
However, I still have some characterization to do, and I don't think I can cut that down by much. The game-characters still have a particular style, a way of doing things, a feel about them. Also, they will still have a backstory, but the player has to write it! That becomes a fun challenge, as well. I'm having characters create the backstory for other characters. Thus, the 12 game-characters have characterization to be done. Naturally, the player-characters can't get left out of that! They need their own style, way of doing things, opinions, morals, backstory, motivations, desires, oh-the-list-goes-on!
So I found myself with the daunting task of weaving 11 sub-plots around a main plot, in a clever world, with 24 well-fleshed, intriguing characters! Phew! Standing on that precipice, I went to the net to see what other authors might have to say about such things. Most helpful as yet, has been Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock series. On his website, he has a series of articles that begin with How to Plot Your Novel. In this article, Haynes describes a piece of free software that he uses to plot his novels, as well as To Do lists, and many other things. This software is called FreeMind. I decided to try it, and I have to tell you I LOVE it! I started with the title of the novel in the center, branched out to each of the player-characters, who branched out to their game-character, their subplot, their real-character, and went on from there to fill in plot details, physical descriptions, backstory, power information, etc.
I'm nowhere near done, but I'm really enjoying this tool; which is helping me get organized. Thanks to Simon Haynes and FreeMind. I suppose now that I've talked all about it, I should go work on it!