The Snowflake Experiment, Week 3

Stormy Meadow Over the past two weeks, I’ve continued experimenting with Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. I’m working on step 5 (of 10), and I continue to be impressed with how well it is helping me develop my story.

Character Summaries

Backtracking a little, when I posted about week 1 of the experiment, I had made it to step 3 — character summaries. I finished those, which gave me a high-level view of my main characters. I had to come up with names for each character and establish their motivations.

Here’s my cast of main and secondary characters so far:

  • Jaylan Forester: Jaylan is a skilled swordsman with a knack for uncovering the truth. Forced out of his position as Captain of the City Guard by political intrigue, he joined the Raven Company, a band of mercenary soldiers, and takes on the contracts that require investigative skills.
  • Sulana Delano: Sulana is a Sword Sorceress. She leads a team of agents in defense of the Independent Archives, a sanctuary and training facility for sorcerers.
  • Daven Overland: Daven is part of Sulana’s team, acting as her personal bodyguard, a role he relishes more than he should.
  • Talon Destry: Talon is another member of Sulana’s team, and the second in command. Talon advises Sulana with the experience that she lacks, but he has no skills with magic.
  • Barek Hunter: Barek is a taciturn giant of a man from the North who is also part of Sulana’s team. He is the team’s strength when the time for talking is done and the time for fighting begins.
  • Ebnik Vastorus: Ebnik is an aged sorcerer who assists Sulana’s team in the effort to recover an important magical item that was stolen from him.
  • Paeter Thoron: Paeter is a sorcerer who was expelled from the Archives for practicing dangerous magic on unwilling subjects. He vows to overthrow the Archives and remove what he views as unreasonable restrictions on the practice of magic.
  • Raleb Wright: Raleb is a young thief who is trapped in a life of crime by circumstance, but hopes to find a way out one day.

Jaylan is the main character. The story will be told largely from his point of view.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to write the story in first person, completely from Jaylan’s POV, or if it will be in third person so I can change POV to the other major characters in the story (particularly Sulana). Most of the advice I’ve read says that beginning novelists should avoid writing in first person because it can be difficult to maintain continuity and it becomes harder to give readers information about things that happen to the other characters away from presence of the main character. I’ll try a few scenes both ways and see what works out best.

Story Expansion

Step 4 of the Snowflake Method was to expand my basic story line into several paragraphs. The idea is to take each major section of the story and expand it out into a few paragraphs that provide more detail.

You might have noticed that the Snowflake Method has you go back and forth between story and character. At first that might seem counter-productive, but it really isn’t. I’m discovering that, in a lot of ways, the characters are the story.  Who your characters are helps shape the story. I’m finding that characters drive virtually all of the subplots.

I can’t get into too much detail about the story expansion here because it would definitely be spoiler material.

Character Expansions

Step 5 is to expand your character summaries into a full description of the story from each character’s point of view. When I first read the description for what I was supposed to do here, I thought, “wow, what a drag. That will take forever.”

But it isn’t turning out that way. I’m blazing through the character expansions, and writing them is surprisingly fun. Looking at the story from each character’s POV is helping me find inconsistencies and holes in the story. It is also helping me fill in the holes.

Unexpected, this is.

Every character expansion is making the story richer and helping me develop more complexity in the interpersonal relationships between the characters.


If you haven’t already noticed, this blog has article links on the right. Right now, there’s only one category “Theory of Vaetra.” The articles in that category explain how my system of magic (called “vaetra”) works.

I’m planning to include additional back-story information as articles on this site. Things like descriptions of the creatures and specific artifacts, in addition to more information about vaetra.

If you have a specific question about how something works or how I plan to handle certain issues, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to answer. I appreciate your participation as it will help me make my story world stronger.


I have blog comments turned off because of problems with spam. Feel free to use my contact page if you would like to get in touch with me.


  1. Hey. Read both your posts on the Snowflake Method, and I’d like to say thank you. This is just what I needed; a writer who’s making an account of his progress with the method. I think reading this, I’ve understood it much better than before.

  2. Thanks, Liza! I’m glad the posts were helpful.

    I must admit that I didn’t go past Step 5 with the Snowflake method. By that point, the Snowflake Method had done what I needed it to do for me: it helped me develop the main story, several subplots, and my primary characters.

    After Step 5, I switched gears and started using a "beat sheet" to lay out my scenes and get busy writing. My latest post (dated July 29, 2011) explains how I did that.