Wednesday Writing Tip: 3 Critical Things You Need In Your Story Notes

This is an excerpt, plus some additional thoughts of today, from 30 Day Novel:

Here are three devices that can save you centuries of torture in that special writer’s hell reserved for writers who describe a nine day week.

Ask me how I know.

I am so bad at this basic step. So, so, terribly bad. I always think: weeeeeelll... THIS time, I don't need to do all that work before I write... I can just dive in...

Wrong. So, so wrong.

I'm in the process of belatedly FILLING IN MY CALENDAR for all the events of Books 10-12 in my epic fantasy series, The Unfinished Song, something I ought to have done last millennium. 

But better late than never. 

1. Calendar – Start with backstory and continue to the end of the book or beyond. Put every offstage and onstage action onto a calendar. Account for all major characters. Trust me. This will save you so much grief! (I have such a hard time with this that I often STILL don’t do it, even though I know better, and then I suffer for my stupidity. O ye gods how I suffer.)

2. Map – If your story takes place in the “real” world, Google Maps is your friend. If you’re writing fantasy, you must make your own, or hire mapmakers from the Renaissance Faire. If you’re writing a historical, don’t just make up crap, crack a history book. 

3. Mugshots – Keep a record of all names of characters (with the correct spelling). Pretend you’re the secret police and this is your file on them. Add any pertinent information, like parentage  or priors. A brief description of them is also helpful—you can consult it if you need to refer to it in a scene.

It’s fun and surprisingly helpful if you actually find pictures of people who look like your characters. Since this is just for you, you can choose famous people, actors you’d want to play them in the movie version of your book, or you can just grab photos from the internet like a crazed troll. (Just don’t use it for commercial purposes, like your book cover.) 

It works for places too.  Identify where each scene takes place. Find pictures that look like these castle tower chambers, ski slopes or high tech prison cells ahead of time. Even non-exotic locales can be enriched if you look at photos of what you have in mind. It can inspire you to add details to the description of the setting.

Finally, for action scenes, you can find almost anything you need demonstrated on YouTube. I’ve found dance sequences, fights with Zulu hand to hand combat weapons, and how to add henna to your hair. Do this research ahead of time, because you know you’re going to get lured into an hour of kitten Abba videos if you’re not careful. You don’t want that to happen right in the middle of writing your scene.

For tons more helpful writing tips, click here.