Friday, September 4, 2015

The Art of Character Crafting - #5: "Details are just so darn hard!"

Let's face it. Every writer runs into this roadblock at least once.

Birthdays, anniversaries, appearances, names, significant dates, dreams, pets, family members, unimportant friends, school stuff, extra-curricular activities, memories, favorite things... etc.

I'm not going to lie, it's HARD keeping track of this stuff. Which character's birthday is on June 22nd? Was that Pepper or Skylar? I'm just gonna say it was Skylar, and hope that I'm right. 

I don't know about you all... But I really don't have time to sit down and reread my novel every time I need one of those details. There's about a million other things that I would rather spend my time doing besides tirelessly searching for one detail... I don't know... like, WRITING, maybe? Yeah. Or baking. Or eating donuts. Or petting puppies. Or doing English homework. You know, the usual list. So, how do you keep track of all this tough stuff? Over the past few years, I've tried several different methods, which have all served the same purpose for me. They all work pretty well for organization, it just depends on what type of writer you are.

1. Character Notebook - This can be any type of notebook. Journal, Binder, College-Ruled, Composition Book... You name it. The only thing I wouldn't recommend using is loose-leaf paper. Loose-leaf paper is genius, but it's TERRIBLE for people with OCD; and it's not too good for organizing your character details either. Anyway, when you're in the midst of plotting your story/creating a character, pull out your character notebook. Just start writing. Full, name, place of birth, age, family members, significant other, favorite things, dreams... etc. With an organized notebook, you will easily be able to go back through to a specific character, whilst looking for those details. Aaand, if you have OCD, like me, I have another suggestion for you. Use a binder. Once you have so many characters completed, you can organize them in whatever order you like. Alphabetical order is FANTABULOUS for being perfectly organized. It's almost like having a CLASSIFIED character file. You know, just like the FBI. Or CIA. Or whatever. "Muahahaha, I've got all the dirty details on these characters. Well... I guess that's a good thing... You know... Cause I created them..." *slow clap*

2. Info File - Whenever I begin a new project... Even if it's just getting the idea down on paper, I always create a specific file for all things related to that particular novel. In this file, I have several different word documents organized in a wonderful OCD-friendly environment. Character charts (names, dates, that sort of thing...), chapter names (which are EXTREMELY great for plotting), plot twists, different vital events. If they aren't related to each other, they go in a separate document; but if they are for the use of one book, they go in the same file. KABLAM. Congratulations, you are now a very organized person.

3. Lists - This one... eesh, I wasn't sure if I should even post this one. I mean, I don't want the label 'list lady'. But, hey, they work. And they help. So, label me all you want. This may not work for everyone... Especially people who have the rare gift of NOT overthinking things. Me? Yeah, whenever my wheels get turning, it's hard to stop them. Anywho, at the beginning of each chapter that I write, I create a list. These lists go in my info file. The list will usually contain everything that I want to happen in the particular chapter. Even snappy dialogue interchanges... If I want it to happen in the chapter, it goes on the list. In doing it this way, I can easily refer back to my checklist and see if my writing is staying on the track that I want it on. Rabbit trails are fine, but I hate having to delete fifteen pages of work because I didn't think about how it would effect my plot. It's so frustrating thinking that you have 20k more words than what you actually have. Again, I've sat contemplating whether or not I should show you one of my lists... Yikes, this is scary. I feel like I'm exploiting all of my secrets. Oh well. We're all friends, amiright? Sooo... Inhales slowly, here you go (Note: some things have been removed for my intents and purposes, thus making it a VERY short checklist... but, hey, at least it'll give you some ideas.):

4. Pinterest Boards - Pinterest is my bae. Seriously, though. You can create a board on pinterest for the purpose of keeping track of your character... Quotes that remind you of them... Pictures of clothes they would wear... Pictures of THEM. Unless you want all your followers to see your character details, make sure to remember to make it a secret board. You can do so by clicking "create board", and selecting to keep a secret.

Alrighty, well that's all I have for you today! I hope that was helpful... Again, if you have any specific questions you want answered, please feel free to contact me using the form on our homepage!

Keep writing!


Patricia Rane

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