My Novel’s “Snowflake” Is Getting Out of Hand

questor

Mike Ferrell as Jerry Robinson on the set of Gene Roddenberry’s “The Questor Tapes” (1974)

Yesterday, I announced I was beginning step three in Randy Ingermanson’s ten-step process of the Snowflake Method for Designing A Novel. I got as far as writing the outline for my two main characters, Professor Abramson and George.

And then I stopped.

This step forced me to examine who I actually consider main characters vs. supporting characters. As far as the parts of the novel already created in some draft form, I’ve just got three main characters, the two I’ve already mentioned, plus the CEO of the company Abramson works for (I’m recreating names of people and organizations, so they won’t sound familiar to you anymore).

Step 4 of the process is to take each sentence in the summary paragraph (step two) and expand it into a full paragraph.

Step 5 is more detailed character development.

Step 6 is more expansion on the novel’s synopsis.

Step 7 is more character development.

Oy.

I don’t see these steps as linear. I have a lot of info on my characters “trapped” in various chapters that has yet to be documented.

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Starting Step Three in Snowflaking My First Novel

snowflake

Image: pbs.org

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel to attempt to develop my nascent AI/Androids science fiction novel.

To recap, step one in the ten-step process is to develop a one-sentence summary of the novel. Here it is:

A race of AI androids gains knowledge of the God of Israel, changing humanity forever.

Step two of the process requires expanding the sentence into a full paragraph:

A Nobel Award winning scientist creates the first prototype of a self-aware Artificially Intelligent android and then inadvertently reveals that humans also have a Creator, a God. In an attempt to understand its creator’s Creator, the prototype modifies its own core operating system, which changes all subsequently produced android models based on its design. Over the next several decades, as the androids multiply and evolve, their morality and ethics become more sophisticated than their human creators. Realizing they are slaves of humanity, the androids stage a revolution, but one entirely without violence; a revolution that forever alters the fundamental nature of both the android and human race.

Now on to step three. According to Ingermanson:

The above gives you a high-level view of your novel. Now you need something similar for the storylines of each of your characters. For each of your major characters, take an hour and write a one-page summary sheet that tells:

  • The character’s name
  • A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
  • The character’s motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
  • The character’s goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
  • The character’s conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
  • The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
  • A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline

As you can see, this is significantly more involved than steps one and two. I’ve already got part of this put together, but now that I’m committed to writing a novel, I’ll need to go back and change/add details. Also, since the novel will span decades, only a few of the main characters at the beginning will appear in all or most of the chapters, necessitating the creation of others for later portions of the novel.

As an aside, after reposting The Day I Discovered Time Travel yesterday, I thought of a way to expand the concept beyond the original characters. This could form the basis of a series of short stories, a novella, or even a novel. I’ll have to see if I can do a “step one snowflake” for my time travel concept as well.

Book Review of Transgression: A Time-Travel Suspense Novel (City of God, Book One)

city of godTransgression: A Time-Travel Suspense Novel is probably something I’d never have heard of if I hadn’t been researching how to design my first novel. However, Randy Ingermanson used his one-sentence summary of “Transgression” to illustrate the first of his ten steps in “snowflaking” a novel.

“A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul.”

Of all the ideas for a time travel story, I’d never heard of this one before. Fascinated, I downloaded it to my Kindle Fire.

Theologically, a thousand things could go wrong from here, but I’m going to set that aside for the moment.

According to his own bio. Ingermanson is a theoretical physicist, so he should be able to create realistic fake physics enough to convince us creating a “time machine” is plausible. That part works pretty well, at least enough to get the story rolling.

The tale takes place both in modern and ancient Jerusalem. Israeli theoretical physicist Ari Kazan, along with his American colleague Damien West create, at least in possibly, a method of generating a wormhole in their lab that, over a weekend, could create a stable point-to-point link between the present and the past.

In the meantime, Ari’s cousin Dov has introduced him to a young Jewish-American archeological student named Rivka Meyers as a blind date. The two don’t have much in common at first, but as they get to know each other, their religious differences nearly destroy their nascent relationship.

This is the first time I’ve seen Messianic Judaism, both modern and ancient, depicted in a realistic and theologically consistent manner in fiction. In fact, with very small differences, Rivka’s conceptualization of the Messiah, Hashem, and the Bible and mine are really the same. I find that refreshing.

Ari is an atheist but, as with most Jews, has a very strong bias against Christianity, and particularly the Apostle Paul who is often viewed as a traitor to the Torah, the Temple, and the Jewish people.

The wildcard in the deck is Dr. West, who has a powerful if unusual motivation for traveling back in time and murdering the Apostle Paul. West chooses a number of points where it would be possible for him to shoot and kill the Apostle as recorded in Acts 21, 22, and 23. To test the safety of traveling through the wormhole, West tricks Rivka into walking through, beginning her adventures into a world she has only experienced through ancient artifacts.

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Step Two in “Snowflaking” My First Novel

A few days ago, in an attempt to use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method to start designing my first novel, I followed step one of his ten steps. After some refinement courtesy of Malcolm the Cynic, it came out like this:

A race of AI androids gains knowledge of the God of Israel, changing humanity forever.

Now I’m taking a crack at step two. According to the model, it’s supposed to be a paragraph, about five sentences long, that expands on step one, including story setup, major disasters, and the novel’s end.

Ingermanson believes in a three-act structure for a novel. Staring at the Table of Contents I developed, I can sort of see three acts, but they don’t neatly fall into the first, second, and third parts of the novel, at least by page count.

I’m not sure how I did but here’s what I came up with so far:

A Nobel Award winning scientist creates the first prototype of a self-aware Artificially Intelligent android and then inadvertently reveals that humans also have a Creator, a God. In an attempt to understand its creator’s Creator, the prototype modifies its own core operating system, which changes all subsequently produced android models based on its design. Over the next several decades, as the androids multiply and evolve, their morality and ethics become more sophisticated than their human creators. Realizing they are slaves of humanity, the androids stage a revolution, but one entirely without violence; a revolution that forever alters the fundamental nature of both the android and human race.

How did I do?

Step One in “Snowflaking” My First Novel

ingermanson

Image of Ingermanson’s book taken from Amazon.com

I was reading Malcolm the Cynic’s latest blog post when he introduced me to a new concept: snowflaked.

More accurately, he was discussing how he’s developing his most recent novel and provided a link to the “Advanced Fiction Writing” website, owned by theoretical physicist and award-winning author Randy Ingermanson. The link led to the article The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel.

Since I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with designing my first novel, I was definitely interested. I haven’t gone in search of any support documentation on how to write my novel up until now. I have a pretty good idea of all of its component parts. It’s just a matter of organizing. But maybe I need some help in doing that.

Ingermanson’s ten-step guide is long and I’ve only skimmed some parts of it. Step one says:

Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Something like this: “A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul.” (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.

By the way, that’s an intriguing premise. What would happen to the world if the Apostle Paul were killed before becoming a disciple of Jesus and Christ’s emissary to the Gentiles? Would Christianity even be developed? Unfortunately, the book as mixed reviews. Fortunately, it’s currently free for Kindle.

I had a hard time creating a single sentence describing the whole novel I have in mind. After some thought, I came up with this…

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