Character Cards: My Writing Process

21 Jun

Okay, so several people have asked me lately… How do you write?  How do you come up with ideas for your books?  How do you keep the plot straight while you are writing it?

The short and honest answer is… I don’t really know.   That’s not helpful?  Okay, I’ll try to explain a little bit better. 

I definitely think that the writer’s mind works differently than the average bear (or at least, my husband thinks so, anyway) because we tend to think about things from a different angle.  I always find myself wanting to get to the root of stories that I hear– determining WHAT a person was feeling before they got to a certain point, etc.  (Have you ever watched the show, Snapped?  I have tons of fun analyzing those characters…) I guess that’s because I’m a character writer.  I almost always think of my characters WAY before I think of a plot.  I know everything about them LONG before I know what will happen to them… and I’m talking what kind of underwear they wear and if they are right or left-handed.

After I dream up a character, I think of what I want to happen to the character- and how I want him or her to end up.  The middle is the hardest part for me… all of the details that get that character from the beginning to the end. 

How do I keep my story straight along the way?  That is one area in which I do make notes.  I know, I know.  I’m a notorious Pantser.  I don’t typically write from an outline or if I do, it’s a very skeletal and loose one.  But I do make notes.  If I don’t, I will contradict myself a hundred times during the story and we can’t have that.  Consistency is key.  One of the best ways that I monitor myself in that regard is that I make Character Cards and keep them in a little index card box.  

On the front side of the card, I list the character’s physical attributes and if I can find one, a picture of someone who looks similiar to the character that lives in my head.  On the back side, I list details about the character.   This is a picture of Lachesis’ Character card:





                           Front                                                                                           Back

These cards just give me a visual reminder of who my characters are.   I also keep a notebook (a real paper and pen notebook, not a software program) in which I scribble notes so that I don’t forget them.  I tend to do this a lot in the middle of the night.  It’s a good thing I’m an insomniac or that would get really annoying.

My plotting process is fairly simple.  I let my mind wander to generate ideas and then I write them down.   Done and DONE.   If you’d like the perspective of a writer who goes into MUCH greater detail during this process, check out my friend, Wren Emerson’s post on outlining. Yikes.  That makes my head hurt just to look at it.  But, it works for her. 

So, there you have it.  My very simplistic method of keeping track of my ideas and characters.  It’s easy and brief, but it works for me. 



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