Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tracking the Details

As an author, I tend to simply sit and write without thought to direction. I admit to being a ‘pantser’, which some think is a misguided way to write. In fact, it’s not. To me it’s easier than plotting everything out and trying to maintain that course in the story. I find my characters have ideas concerning their actions, choices, plot, and of course love life. It’s not up to me to force them into a mold, but to listen to their story as told in their voice.
Sounds nuts doesn’t it?
It can be when these ideas rush forth and the fingers press the keys in a flurry of letters, words and sentences. Character descriptions, minor details, and assorted other items important in keeping the story straight can be confused or accidentally changed without intentional thought.
Over the years of conference attendance, I’ve listen to some of the leaders in the world of romance speak about many things. Keeping the details straight was a key factor in some of the workshops. When asked how they did it, they use storyboards set up in their offices. Nice idea. But for the rest of us who don’t have the space or luxury of an office, there is a simpler way.
In this age of computers, it’s easy to keep these things organized if one takes a moment at the beginning of each manuscript to create a file labeled: Character Traits and Important Story Facts. When a character is created, list their name, job, talent, location, and every minute physical trait: hair color, eye color, body build, flaws, etc. This helps when you’re halfway through the book and realize you’ve forgotten the color of their eyes or how you spelled the last name.
I even keep a running timeline in this file. So many times, I’ve gotten into the writing that I’ve forgotten how many days have gone by in the story. It helps keep the story flowing when you can keep the minute details straight. Readers pick up on these things. And some of them make it their job to inform an author of a mistake. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you find creating a Fact File on your computer as you write a bit confusing, then try using a notebook. Keep it beside you as you create and jot down notes that will help keep the facts straight.
I find that as I get older, every little ‘memory’ trick I can use is helpful in my efforts to write. Characters speak and I listen. Stories unfold and flourish. But it’s the details that get forgotten along the way.


Fiona McGier said...

I'm a Luddite. I have tiny scraps of paper all over my laptop and my desk. Those have the details of ages, traits, etc. When I get a contract, I search through them all and staple the relevant ones to that contract. That's my personal "proof" that I wrote the books. Also I can go back to them and check things if the book turns into a series.

jean hart stewart said...

Great blog. I hope it reminds me to keep more notes. I tend to forget too much when I move onto another book in a series. Do some note taking, but not enough.

Tina Donahue said...

Great blog. Continuity is one of the hardest things when writing. If you say your character has dimples on page 5, then forget about it, some astute reader will ask what happened to those dimples. :)

That's why I outline everything. I have the characters appearances, backgrounds, history with lovers, etc. written down so that I can refer to it as I'm writing. Makes it easier for me.