November is one of my favorite times of year. In Seattle, the sky becomes steely gray, the rains return in earnest, and the darkness sets in properly. One must make the choice of being gripped by an overwhelming feeling of despair, or else channeling all that dark energy into creativity. I actually don’t mind the darkness as much as I used to because of all the creative juices one can stew in during the winter. And NaNoWriMo, that’s National Novel Writing Month to the uninitiated, is a lovely way to really get back in the groove. NaNo is a speed drafting challenge: 50,000 in a month. No worries about quality, all worries about quantity. It’s a good, healthy way to kick your internal editor in the teeth and rack up some serious word count.
I’ve done and “won” NaNo twice in 2009 and 2010. I completed Shitty Rough Drafts (or Junk Drafts, if you prefer) of two novels out of a trilogy. Then I got distracted by grad school and didn’t NaNo for a couple of years. This year, I’m doing a novel that’s unrelated to the two I did before. It’s a YA novel with a lot of blatant Hero’s Journey plotting and character design for all my supporting characters that’s super archetypal. By “archetypal” what I really mean is that I used the Fraggle Rock Method of Character Design.
Fraggle Rock has some of the best character design of an ensemble-cast kids’ show ever. Can you remember every Fraggle pictured above? If you watched the show at all, or were like me and had a single VHS of just the songs that you watched over and over, I’ll bet you do. By contrast, can you name every Transformer? Every original 80s My Little Pony? Every Thundercat? Maybe you can, and have put my 80s knowledge to shame. But the Fraggles in particular stick in my head. Here’s my theory as to why:
You’ve got five basic Fraggle main characters: Gobo, Wembly, Red, Mokie, and Boober.
Gobo is the Everyman, in some ways the most generic of the Fraggles in terms of personality traits, but also the Fraggle that it’s easiest to identify with, since he doesn’t have a ton going on aside from a bit of curiosity and adventurous spirit. He’s the Hero: You, the viewer, can pretty easily imagine yourself in his place doing the adventurous things.
On the other hand, child-me was a lot more like Red Fraggle, or at least that’s how I thought of myself. Red is one of the four “side-characters” in the Fraggleverse. All four side-characters correspond to a great number of Things What Come In Fours: Elements, Humours, Suits of the Minor Arcana, etc.You could easily pick a Myers-Briggs type for each Fraggle.
Red is fiery, Choleric, literally a red-orange color, and corresponds to the suit of Wands. For those of you who’ve done any sort of direction-based leadership styles, Red embodies “North.” She’s outgoing, enjoys dancing and doing and “leading”, i.e. taking over and dictating how she thinks things should be going.
Mokie, the other female Fraggle, is more or less Red’s opposite. She’s calm, quiet, thoughtful, and often sees the big picture. She’s watery, Phlegmatic, corresponds to the suit of Swords (I know, usually Swords go with air, but go with me here), and literally a soothing purple color. She’s sort of mystic and motherly. In terms of directional leadership styles, she’s totally “East.”
Wembly Fraggle just likes getting along with everyone and is super, super nice. He’s yellow, which makes me think air, but then again his Sanguine temperament has him corresponding neatly with the suit of Cups and the “South” directional leadership style. He’s the people-pleaser and the supportive friend.
Boober Fraggle, who has fab taste in hats, is cranky, superstitious, and wary of more or less everything. Boober is green/gray, corresponds with Earth and the suit of Coins, has a Melancholic temperament, and is a “West.” He’s the type of character I wish more kids’ shows had these days: a bit of a sad sack, but a well-loved sad sack who was still part of the team. See also: Oscar the Grouch.
How does this apply to my novel?
I have a main character with four supernatural supporting characters who have that same archetypal split: One of each temperament, one of each element, one of each leadership style, etc. My novel is about a girl who finds that she is able to access and even change the “storyverse,” i.e. a parallel dimension that’s filled with incarnations of fictional characters. It’s ridiculous and fun. Thus far, my four characters who serve as her advisors/team are:
- Vassalisa (from Russian fairy tales; the girl who met Baba Yaga and lived)
- Shahrazade (teller of 1,001 Arabian Nights tales)
- An incarnation of the Armless Maiden named Claire (based on West African folklore, although that story spans cultures like no other)
- Fhanta-Ghiro the Beautiful (from Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales)
You’ll hear a little more about them as the month progresses. But right now I gotta go get my word count up to par. For those of you NaNoing out there, happy writing!