Stagnant. That’s what a swamp is.
Cultivated, plowed, sown, tilled, harvested. That’s what a farmer’s field is.
I want my characters to be fields, not swamps, but in order for that to happen, I have to be a good farmer.
- Unturned soil: Character begins thinking he is pretty happy, but something nags at the back of his mind
- First plow: Character realizes not all is well in his internal workings. He wants to be something more.
- Seed is sewn: Finds purpose in working hard to obtain goal
- Drought comes: Goal is put out of reach. Despair sets in.
- Fertilizer: Perhaps can reach goal another way.
- Rain: Outside influences encourage growth.
- Growth: That one’s pretty obvious
- Ripening: Character realizes perhaps his goal should be different
- Harvest: Achieves goal
The important part is not to get things out of over. If the rain falls at the wrong time, the crop is ruined. I have a tendency, I’ve noticed, to start my character mid-development or to rehash problems the character has already worked through. Writing out a list helps me to have an idea of where my character is supposed to be at a given time and it keeps me on track (lists are the way I do things, but you could use an outline, a chart, a bubble graph, or even a picture like a visual life map).
The only problem then is that you have to know where your list is . . .