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?
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).
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:
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!