Writing Wednesday 3 - Brainstorming part 2

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Here's where things get a bit more coherent. It's time to clean up the messy bits and get them organized, so lets break out the cork boards!

If you use Scrivner, then you're used to used to the cork board function being integrated into the program, which is a pretty nifty feature. Unfortunately, if you're like me and your eyes work better when they're presented with non-white backgrounds, then it's a bit more difficult. My color-coded cork board isn't nearly as intuitive as the one with Scrivner, but it lets me get things in order so that I can use the main program more effectively. I'll show you my "Post-It Digital" notes board this time, but may switch to Scrivner later.

Here's the board for the characters I have so far, with their names and attributes.

All of the main characters are there: London, her sister Shae, the two guys which do not a triangle make: Levi and Tavian (previously called Shawn, but that was too close to Shae), etc. "Living Furniture" characters don't really need to be on the board yet, as they're filler and atmosphere more than intrinsic to the plot.

And here's the board for the beginning of the story, taking London from her old life to her new one.

There are sub-notes that add details like the fact that London, while understandably uncomfortable, takes things to the extreme by putting down handkerchiefs or paper towels before she sits on anything (due to how her mother spoke about dad's other family). And that while, also understandably uncomfortable, dad and stepmom make some extreme mistakes, like assuming that London's not eating because she's pouting, when she's actually allergic to what was made for dinner.

Those details are the keys to character and atmosphere. You keep adding them until your characters are real enough that you could believe their lives are actually going on somewhere out in the real world. Determine their likes and dislikes. Give them allergies and phobias. Make them irrationally irritated by people who wear leggings, or give them aspirations that all common sense says are impossible. Give them the tenacity to make the impossible happen, or make them crumble at the sight of the first obstacle while it's still miles off in the distance.

Hopefully, when you're done hanging all of the extra dressing on your characters, you'll have something less like hand-puppets and more like actors in a stage play with you as the director. The next step is to create a rough draft of the beginning, so you want to be working with something as close to a final character as possible. But, that doesn't mean that you can't discover new attributes about your characters along the way.

That's about it for this installment. I'll have more next week.

7 Chiming In:

Linda said...

I'm loving this new series so much. I hope you keep doing it. Can't wait to watch your process and the story unfold.

Jenny said...

This was awesome on outlining and character development. About Scrivner- do you find it helpful to use when drafting/editing? I'm pretty undecided on if I should use it or just stick to regular old battered notebooks and Word.

Josin L. McQuein said...


I've only had Scrivner on my PC for a couple of weeks - still in the trial stage, actually - but so far it's been helpful. Before I knew there was a version for PC, I used the color corkboards posted above (Post-It Digital), which take a bit more work than Scrivner, but I've used for over a year. If the new program proves more efficient, I'll likely keep using it.

If you're undecided, you might try the month-long free trial (29 days, IIRC) to see if the software makes a difference for you.

Unknown said...

THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! (I'm shouting because I am so excited!) I never heard of this Scivner program and now I have YOU to thank for it.

I love organizing. Prior to today's discovery, I made my own physical version of this program with a real cork board and post-it notes. It was very heavy and in the way in our small office.

You have made my day! A thousand thank yous!

Good luck with your writing. Beyond the revelation of Scrivner, I do adore the character layering tips (and inclusion of allergies--nice touch!)


angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Thanks for your method posts. I find myself way along in the plot, with tons of action then need to go back and change things because the characters have a new something, attitude, look.

I don't have scrivner but real notes on the wall behind my desk.

I find it interesting that you brainstorm about your characters before plotting

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