My mini-van has become one of my greatest tools. It's like the ace up my sleeve. When all other plans fall through, I know I always have my black mini-van.
No matter how crazy a day I have, or how many tasks I've left unchecked on my 'To Do' lists, I know I can always find refuge and clarity in my mini-van. Allow me to explain.
As I've mentioned before I have four children and I often struggle to find one on one time with them. The day slips through my fingers and I am tucking them into bed before I know it. The other day I loaded all of my kids in the van, but once everyone was buckled, I realized that we had left a half an hour earlier than planned. Rather than unload the entire family, I decided that we'd just sit. Just sit in the mini-van for the entire thirty minutes.
It was fantastic. For thirty minutes, my children were my captive audience. My two-year-old wasn't getting into the fingernail polish, my toddler was holding still (by a safety belt, but still ...), and I actually had a few minutes to visit with my two oldest girls. I learned so much and we actually had a great 'family' moment. Since that fortuitous day, I have held many family counsels and visits in the 'mini-van'.
I'm now working through plot lines and characters for my second book. It's all still very much in the cosmos at the moment, and I've struggled with pinning it all down and getting my ducks in a row. In short, I knew I needed a 'mini-van' moment. And so I did it.
I imagined my four main characters, stuck in my mini-van with me for thirty minutes. I asked them the same questions I asked my kids.
-What's their favorite song?
-What do they struggle with right now?
-What are they afraid of?
-What was the best thing that happened to them today?
-Who's their favorite teacher (or mentor)?
-Who's their hero?
-What do they want to be when they grow up?
-When all their jobs are done, what's their favorite thing to do?
-What details or tidbits about them get lost in the shuffle? What things do I miss because I'm too busy?
-What's something they learned today?
It's amazing how my characters fleshed out all on their own. This little mental exercise really helped me slow things down and allowed me some much needed 'one-on-one' time with my characters. Knowing more about them: their motivations, needs, fears, etc. gave my story structure and set some key points in place. I still have a long ways to go, but this definitely got the ball rolling for me.
Do any of you have a 'mini-van' tool? What do you do to pull your story out of the vague cosmos and get it down on paper? Where do you begin? How do you establish structure? I'm all ears!!