Sunday, December 9, 2007

Where Are They Now?

As I'm nearing the end of writing my first draft, for the second time, I'm discovering that I am losing track of where everyone is. I found myself bringing a character into a scene and then saying to myself "where did he come from?" I'm sure there are writers out there that have no problem with this, but my brain has limited ability to remember even what I had for lunch yesterday, let alone keep track of the location of 20+ characters throughout a 115,000 word novel, which spans two continents (and in some cases thousands of years). So yesterday I took action and came up with another tool in my arsenal. Now whether this is just another tool to keep me distracted from my true need to just write, or beneficial, is maybe a bit difficult to see, but overall I think it was a good idea.

Basically I created a spreadsheet. Dates down the left hand column, and names along the top, in the chronology that they appear in the story. If you remember I already keep a calendar in Outlook to keep track of the chronology of the story, so adapting it to keep track of all the characters was relatively easy. Take a look:

As you can see characters are introduced as the story progresses, and there are a few places where I've placed a black line indicating the character leaving the story, either by death or other means.

A couple of interesting things came out of this. One was there is a big battle toward the end of the story (This is fantasy after all) and in the battle I had 14 main characters, the one event that brought them all together, and not a single one of them was killed. Now I'm not completely sure any of them should be killed here, but it seems likely that some would be in a battle of the scope I've written. So I'll have to ponder a bit about that.

Another thing, more what I thought I would discover, is people appear and disappear in various scenes with no indication of how they got there. What happened between the time we saw them last and now? I even had two characters that magically combined into one somewhere along the way. (not on purpose) So in this respect this was a very helpful exercise. Try it, maybe you'll discovers some things that really make you question how your brain works (or doesn't).

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