Write a First Draft (exercise)

William Faulkner said about his writing process, “It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”

In the Story Cartel Course, we start with the protagonist because in a novel (and, to some extent, a memoir), your protagonist, more than anything else, drives the story forward.

Your Assignment

This assignment has three, simple parts.

Step One

Develop a short profile of your protagonist, writing the most important things you know about him or her. Write a paragraph describing your protagonists:

  • Values
  • Needs
  • Fears
  • Wants
  • Routine (e.g. career, quirks)

Step Two

You can’t fully capture the entirety of your protagonist in one story, but as Robert McKee said, you may be able “to capture the entirety of a life in a few moments.”

Read your profile and underline two to three main ideas you want to focus on in your story.

Step Three

Now, write your story!

Write a quick first draft of about 1,000 words. (For this exercise, it’s okay if you go a little over. Try not to go a lot over, though.)

Try to write your first draft in one sitting. It’s alright if you have to take a short bathroom break or a walk in the middle, but see if you can at least finish your first draft in one day.

Once you’re finished with your story, hold on to it. We’re going to be working on it more in this unit.

Ready to move on to the next lesson? Click here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002927764006 Erika Simone

    I cant wait to work on this! As I wrote this story, my characters actually made me laugh out loud. Hopefully, that means its good. :)

  • Ann Stanley

    I’ve had the most difficult time writing a short story this way. Maybe what I came up with is pretty good, but the rich character I developed demanded a much longer story than 1000 words (um, I think I’ll hit 3000 and that’s after cutting and rewriting and cutting and driving myself nuts). I kept trying to pare it to the barest of essentials but finally gave up and wrote a different tale, pantsing it until the protagonist emerged. My draft is only 1009 words and I’m ready for the editing phase (though I can’t help but edit as I go along). I sense this approach would work better for a novel. However, I’m now way behind the course.