Snowflake Step Three: Master Iron

Step 3) 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

An important point: You may find that you need to go back and revise your one-sentence summary and/or your one-paragraph summary. Go ahead! This is good–it means your characters are teaching you things about your story. It’s always okay at any stage of the design process to go back and revise earlier stages. In fact, it’s not just okay–it’s inevitable. And it’s good. Any revisions you make now are revisions you won’t need to make later on to a clunky 400 page manuscript.

Another important point: It doesn’t have to be perfect. The purpose of each step in the design process is to advance you to the next step. Keep your forward momentum! You can always come back later and fix it when you understand the story better. You will do this too, unless you’re a lot smarter than I am.

Now, technically, with the Snowflake Method, you are supposed to have done more specific brainstorming than I have at this point. I come to this step and realize that I need to spend more time fleshing out important characters – the main instructor, who plays the part of the villain of the story for all intents and purposes, and the other orphan-slaves learning to kill.

I will look to the advice “It doesn’t have to be perfect”, however, and will forge ahead! What do I need?…

Master Iron

Summary: Master Iron, the main instructor the orphans interact with, trained in the Temple of Mind, is the focus of the orphans’ hatred but also their only ticket out of the hell-hole of the school.

Motivation: Master Iron has entirely given himself over to the Emperor’s service. He actually washed out of the Temple of Mind because he was too vicious and had a petty streak. What he wants is to infuse his pupils with strength, and he sees this as a process of winnowing away the weak ones and torturing the strong ones until they are like him…iron.

Goal: Master Iron wants to create the perfect weapon for the Emperor. He sees Glimmer as having that potential, and is therefore especially cruel to him.

Conflict: His conflict is with Glimmer in the story – the story is about the two of them, really, and the others around them who get hurt and killed while they work out their differences. I also want a secondary conflict with the reader – I want Master Iron to really bother the reader with his justifications for what he does to these orphans.

Epiphany: Master Iron’s epiphany is a cruel one in its own right, because it comes too late. He realizes that, despite his fear of death, Glimmer is a very talented student, and that Iron has given the orphan every possible motivation to kill him.

Storyline Paragraph: Master Iron begins the story when the orphans arrive at the ‘school’ in the middle of the night, having been purchased from orphanages in the city and brought there with hoods on so they don’t know where they are. The first thing he does is he chooses the biggest child and the smallest child (Glimmer) and provokes them into a fight. As the story progresses he escalates until the first orphan death, making it clear that things like a place to sleep and food have to be earned. Master Iron decides to give Glimmer and Last Girl a chance to ‘graduate’ by sending them to kill someone in the school compound. When they try to escape, he kills Last Girl, and is in turn killed by Glimmer.

Other Characters

Sister Grey Sky




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