My Novel Journey: Character Drafting and Plot outlining

plot

noun

the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.

As I journey into the mystical jungle that is novel writing, I thought I’d update you on the process and start some conversations about my methods and decision making!

It’s been a goal of mine to write a novel for a while now, but I’ve always kept it at arms length. “I’ll write when I get to college” I would say in high school, “I’ll write when I have a bachelors degree” I said just earlier this year.

But I slowly started to realize that all I was doing was stewing in the fear of actually sitting down and beginning because it felt so huge in my head.

I decided to sit down and try and lo and behold: nothing. My brain was a dried up well of inspiration.

So I waited.

And when inspiration did hit, it wasn’t sitting behind a desk staring at a computer screen, but instead on the couch watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix.

Finally, something good came out of my propensity to binge watch British television.

There was a French contestant that had a name I really liked, and suddenly I was drafting a full character in my head, then a another, then a love interest, and suddenly a whole cast was coming together!

So, I had my characters in my head, but how do I lay them out on paper?

Character Drafting

Well I personally have a roundabout way of character drafting, so I thought it might be interesting to share here!

First, I create a “Character Board” on Pinterest. Since I have a tendency to focus on Aesthetic before detail, I personally like to begin with a visual layout of the character in my head.  Even though I’m a writer, I process visuals much easier than words.

Building a character board helps me to identify personality traits of each character currently taking residence in my head (one day I’ll start charging rent).  

Then once I have them narrowed down to a few pictures that seem to capture what I have in my head, I end up with something like this:

Then comes the actual drafting. I list details I will need to know for continuity purposes first (eye color, hair color, height, etc.), then a little drabble of planned backstory (this is almost always changed once I get writing, but it’s good to have an idea), and then finally the little gratuitous bits, like personal preferences and quirks.

So for Beau (The first character visualized above) I ended up with something like this:

  • Brown Hair (curly), brown eyes, fair skin, 5’10”
  • From Honfleur, France, living in London
  • Struggling artist, works at bakery
  • Has an old black lab named Adelaide
  • Wears glasses occasionally 

Then, because I’m an old soul who loves the use of paper and printers, I will generally print out a comprehensive list of my major and minor characters.  (Print may be dying but my love for it never will).

Plot Outlining

Like I said, I like to know my Aesthetics before my details, so before I even thought about writing an outline I created a mood playlist on Spotify to ensure a cohesive aesthetic throughout my writing.  For this specific story it was a lot of songs in French and indie songs regarding possible themes I had in mind.

The first thing that I tried was a stream of consciousness type outline, meaning I wrote out a plot point by plot point bullet list of everything I wanted to happen and in what order.  This was then changed heavily when I decided to outline in a way that would further suit writing chapter by chapter, as well as letting me know how many chapters I would be writing for my first draft.

So, what I decided to do was take my list and make each plot point a chapter, then write in details for each point, add in specific scenes, and write any notes that I’ll want to remember in the future.  The outline looked something like this:

Chapter 1

Major Plot point

  • Scene Details
  • Scene Details
  • Notes / Reminders: 

Outlining is completely subjective to the writer, but I find this general set up to give me the right amount of information when I’m putting the outline to work. 

All I had to do at this point was start writing, which I’ll pick up on next time in My Novel Journey: The First Five Chapters

So, here’s my question to you: If you have written or are working on a novel how did/will your character building and plot outlining methods work? Also, what do you think is/was the most daunting part of beginning your novel?

I’ve only just started my novel, I’ve still got Miles to Go!

5 thoughts on “My Novel Journey: Character Drafting and Plot outlining

  1. I’m not a writer, but I wanted to share after reading your post….you amaze me!… it makes my heart smile to see your words and realize with each of your posts why my Sadie loves you so much! “stewing in the fear” – i read this and realized that no matter the dream, if we let the fear root, the dream never gets to grow- doesnt matter if you’re a writer, a painter, a florist (or a coffee shop owner! 😉 I think the most daunting task to any project is the start. There are so many who can & will give you advice about the mechanics and planning of writing a novel and bless them for it! Just wanted to take a moment and say: Im so proud of your for jumping off and not stewing in the fear. Praying for you as you continue on your writing journey…cant wait to read it! Love you – Momma Lendon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s so interesting to see how very different every writers processes can be.

    I do a lot of the plotting in my head. I come up with a loose idea and let it stew for a good while. I think about it, and think some more until I get to a point I feel I know enough about the story and my characters to start writing.

    I then largely pants the rest. I get to a point where I need to plot a bit more, get to know my characters a bit more and then carry on.

    I enjoyed this post and the advice you gave!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Super interesting! I love hearing other people’s processes, I’m definitely a little planning heavy but I will say a lot of this planning does go on in my head, haha.

      This is actually my first time going through my process in writing!

      Thanks for reading and giving feedback!☺️

      Liked by 1 person

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