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Timber Wolf
08-15-2004, 17:50
OK, so now then. This story I've had in my head and been "working" on off and on for who knows how long is getting more and more complicated. I've been trying to develop some kind of timeline and/or outline, so that I can keep track of the characters backgrounds (prior to the first page of the story proper), and to keep track of details like "he was shot in the left leg during Desert Storm," and then later same character "was shot in right arm."

So who else uses this mechanism, and how to you apply it to your writing?

TW

Miss Maggie
08-15-2004, 20:57
One good way to keep up with your characters is to get to know them completely before you start putting their story on the page. Think through their personalities and decide what their main characteristics will be. Example: Is this character impulsive, foolish, or slovenly? Do you want him/her to be a stickler for detail or a neat freak? How do you want this character to react in different situations? Decide what role you want your character to fulfill, then make it happen. You can list his physical characteristics on the same card. When the character becomes real to you, you'll be ready to write his story and keep his actions true to the image you want him to be.

What I do is make a separate file for each character. This file can be a computer file or it can be as simple a listing of the character's traits on an index card. List characteristics, habits, past injuries, likes and dislikes, or any other dates or defining information and keep it close by for handy reference. A lot of the time, I'll tickey-tack files and stick them on the side of the computer monitor in plain sight.

Hope this helps.
MM

Timber Wolf
08-16-2004, 15:21
Originally posted by Miss Maggie
One good way to keep up with your characters is to get to know them completely before you start putting their story on the page. Think through their personalities and decide what their main characteristics will be. Example: Is this character impulsive, foolish, or slovenly? Do you want him/her to be a stickler for detail or a neat freak? How do you want this character to react in different situations? Decide what role you want your character to fulfill, then make it happen. You can list his physical characteristics on the same card. When the character becomes real to you, you'll be ready to write his story and keep his actions true to the image you want him to be.


Basically, that's what I'm doing (or trying to do. I want to "get to know there personalities, ideosyncricies (sp?), types of clothes they wear, types of houses, types of cars, types of firearms (of course no safties on revolvers, and no 40 mm autoloaders :-) ), just like I would learn about a new friend's likes and dislikes, etc.


Originally posted by Miss Maggie

What I do is make a separate file for each character. This file can be a computer file or it can be as simple a listing of the character's traits on an index card. List characteristics, habits, past injuries, likes and dislikes, or any other dates or defining information and keep it close by for handy reference. A lot of the time, I'll tickey-tack files and stick them on the side of the computer monitor in plain sight.

Hope this helps.
MM

Again I am making a bio file on each of the main characters, to keep track of all theses things that you mentioned.

Thanks for the reply.

tous
08-18-2004, 13:42
Timber Wolf,

Something that I find useful is to include a chronology at the beginning of each chapter that records: what day it is, what time it is, which characters are where, a short synopsis of what has happened so far, et cetera. I don't outline fiction and I often add to these prologue notes what I want to accomplish in that chapter.

This is helpful if you write out of sequence and tends to eliminate the occasions where John is sitting in Mary's living room at the end of chapter 6 and the first scene of chapter 7 has him in his car ... 200 miles away ... and it's 10 days later.;P ;P ;P ;P

Miss Maggie has a good point. Know thy characters. I tend to assign major characters a unique gesture, such as tugging on an ear or raising an eyebrow or a phrase such as, "Well, geez Louise ..." This keeps the He said, She said, John said, Mary said sequences more manageable if you replace them with: He tugged his ear, She raised and eyebrow, "Holy Crikeys, Batman ..." and "Golly gee willikers ...";a

I also just noticed that I tend to use the word 'tend' way too much ;u

farranger
08-18-2004, 22:21
As I write each chapter of the rough draft I put a name and a few details about the character there, so If want to remember where I introduced Lieutenant Jones, it will be right here at the head of chapter four. I copy those into a master file. Then, if I kill Lieutenant Jones off in Chapter 7 and he gets married in chapter 6 all that will be there too. It could easily be built into character bios, though I've never done that before, except in my head for the main characters. Kyle

Miss Maggie
08-18-2004, 22:45
I agree with Farranger and Tous concerning doing a small sketchy outline at the beginning of each chapter. I list the characters active in that chapter, any pertinant dates, the scene setting, and a short line summarizing the planned action each character is to take. I put some thought into how I want to use each scene to further the story along and then I make changes to this outline when I alter the story from it. In a long work, this prevents time lost having to go back and look up a bunch of details I've forgotten where I located. A quick skim of the summaries bring the needed information within easy reach. These small chapter summaries make the whole mess more managable when trying to condense the story into a synopsis or query letter.
MM

freepatriot
08-22-2004, 21:58
Am I the only one here who creates timelines and family trees when reading a book? Especially historical fiction, like Michener?

raindog
08-25-2004, 14:11
My general approach is structure, structure, structure. Outlines, bios for characters, timelines, whatever. In general, I try to do an outline that's about 10% of the final work length and would probably do another 10% in supporting materials like bios and stuff. It seems like a lot of work for stuff you're going to basically throw away, but you can't really pour concrete without a form.

Timber Wolf
08-25-2004, 14:22
Originally posted by raindog
My general approach is structure, structure, structure. Outlines, bios for characters, timelines, whatever. In general, I try to do an outline that's about 10% of the final work length and would probably do another 10% in supporting materials like bios and stuff. It seems like a lot of work for stuff you're going to basically throw away, but you can't really pour concrete without a form.

And even though it is not going to go into the finished work, I look at it this way:
If I write another story about the same set of characters (whether it becomes a serial, "trilogy," or whatever), all the background work is already done and you do end up getting a better return on your time investment.

- 'Course I gotta get one story done, before I can worry about "another.":)

raindog
08-25-2004, 15:05
oh yeah, and after having done it once, even if you do some other sort of work, you have the documents to use as templates and all your experience from previous trips through the process. Stuff gets considerably faster and easier after the first time.

Not to knock seat of the pants writing, it's valid and it works, just like you can build a house without a step by step action plan, but especially for large works, it really helps to do some work before you do the work.

BreakerDave
09-11-2004, 01:11
Timber Wolf,

Given your avatar, I hope you don't find this sacrilege, but what you're talking about I've generally heard referred to as a "Story Bible" or "Writer's Guide."

I've seen a couple that were used for television and comic book series. For your purposes, I understand that it would be to keep the characters and timeline straight. However, in series they are used to get new staff writers on the same page.

If you're writing a story and want to keep everyone straight, I have found it useful to create a separate word doc. / file and create character bio's. It's absolutely fine if not all of the material in the bio makes it to the story. The thing is that it is supposed to aid you in writing, ie: reminding you that a character comes from a small town and that it affects his or her world view and decision making process. Also, as you write, you may discover the characters take on a life and voice of their own. -Something that you may think will be a big point for a character, like battle wound, may turn out to be something that the character wouldn't mention. He might simply treat it as just another scar from a hard life.

Usually, these Story Bibles are not too long, but it really depends on the type of story you are telling. A Writer's Guide dealing with historical settings may be much more detailed so the writer doesn't have an event or historical figure out of place.

That said, there is no hard and fast rule on this type of stuff. I had read somewhere that J.K. Rowling, the woman who wrote the "Harry Potter" series, created a bunch of journals containing notes detailing her characters and their magical world as she wrote the actual series.

Good luck with your story-

Timber Wolf
09-11-2004, 16:09
Originally posted by BreakerDave
Timber Wolf,

Given your avatar, I hope you don't find this sacrilege, but what you're talking about I've generally heard referred to as a "Story Bible" or "Writer's Guide."

....



Nope, not a problem. The word "Bible" has no "spiritual" origins, it comes from the plant that they made papyrus out of - but that lecture is for another thread.:) As far as the rest of the post, thanks for the response. I am beginning to not think that I'm going to far overboard on my timelines/outlines.

TW