Have you ever felt like you wanted to scream because you can’t remember what page your description of the hero’s best friend was on, and now you need to say something about his hair in the scene you’re working on? Been there…don’t that.
When I wrote my first novel, Paths of Righteousness (which actually turned out to be the second novel I published), I had a time keeping characteristics of my characters straight. As I learned more about writing, I also learned more about making notes on what you write.
In the September issue, I told you about the Writing Guide notebook I keep, sectioned off into the various things I do, like Facebook, Twitter, Newsletter, etc. When I started thinking about the confusion I was experiencing with descriptions of my characters, I realized that I needed to write those down, and where better to keep them than a notebook?
Originally, I had a spiral notebook for all my stories. I kept track of the year, day, and sometimes the time of the action in the story so that I knew how many days had past since the last scene. I graduated from that to a calendar and then used the notebook to write a running outline of what was in each chapter and scene. From there I went to a divided spiral notebook so that I could list my characters, have my running outline, and make notes of things I had to check on when the story was all done.
The spiral notebook was okay, but it wound up being clumsy, and the pages would rip out with use. That’s when I decided on the 3-Ring Binder instead. I bought the binders when school supplies were on sale and keep them stored in my supply closet. I also bought dividers and notebook paper. Now I have a system that really works.
My binder is set up with sections for:
1. Original notes for the story.
2. Characters. Now here I list the main characters first: Heroine, Hero, Villain. After that, I have any other character in the story that might has a POV (point of view). Following those pages (and I do have one page solely for each character), I list the rest of the characters in the story in alpha order, according to their first name. If I have any characters that are minor and might only be mentioned once, like the waitress at a restaurant, I list all of them on a page together, just in case I have to mention that character somewhere else in the story. On the back of the divider for that section, I list all the characters by last name, keeping the families together in alpha order, and mark which page that characters information is on. I’ll tell you about the information I jot down about the characters later.
3. In this section, I draw diagrams of the houses my characters live in, rooms, porches, stairs, windows, even furniture. (And by the way…I’d do this in pencil, in case you want to rearrange anything.) That way, when I say Rick ran from the kitchen to answer the house phone, I know where that phone is and about how many rings it would take to get there. Also, it tells me if his line of sight reveals a certain person in another room. You may even want to pencil in your characters during the scenes so you know where they are and when they move to another room. Pencil and eraser make this much easier.
4. My running outline fills the next section.
5. Then I have misc. notes. Things like checking for the spelling of a character’s name after the story is written, or to check if you spelled it cellphone or cell phone consistently. Things like that.
6. Next comes the notes for a book trailer.
7. And then the launch party. Of course you might want sections for other things.
Since I’ve been keeping these binders, I’ve made much fewer mistakes.