Thursday, March 31, 2011


Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Almost half-way done!

Even with a reminder, I nearly forgot this was my day to blog! The next challenge became something to write about, preferably remotely connected to our topic of descriptions and settings.

So I scanned through the e-mails of Rebecca Lynn's online class on Worldbuilding for inspiration. Wow! I thought I was a detailed plotter and planner of my stories, but she has me beat by miles. During the class, she shared several spreadsheets she uses in her own writing that go from broad brushstrokes of a world to detailed information about each major character. Ms. Lynn says a writer may only use half this information or less in actually writing a story, but knowing this information will give a ring of authenticity to what you do use.

One of the tools Ms. Lynn suggested was drawing a map of the space your character inhabits, from the town to where the heroine's house is located to her upstairs bedroom with a branch of a giant maple tree just outside the window and the screen with a curled edge where the squirrel gets inside to sit on her pillow and eat the nuts the heroine keeps in a plastic Sesame Street bowl on the nightstand. Again, moving from broad brushstrokes to minor details and, in the plotting of these details, you will come to know your character much more intimately.

I've known other authors who get to know their main characters by making a list what that character would carry in their purse or pocket.

I must confess I rarely get to this level of detail before I start writing a story. This usually comes after I've gotten to know a character. For instance, I recently hit a point in a story where the heroine opens the door to her childhood bedroom she left when she was sixteen. I wanted to show the confusion and struggle of that teenaged self symbolized by the details in that room. Though I'd lived with this character several months already, it took a while to come up with that description.

Do you plan the details of your major characters to an intimate degree before you start writing? For instance, do you know what brand of gum your hero chews? Or what candy bar your heroine would select if she walked into a convenience store? Or do these details come out as you write?


Paty Jager said...

Thought provoking post, Genene.

I have to say while I have a pretty good idea about my characters before I start a story the details you talk about tend to materialize in the stories as I need them.

Their reactions also come about as the story progresses.

Genene Valleau said...

Thanks, Paty! I've always been amazed at authors who seem to know all these intimate details of their characters before they actually start to write the book.

In spite of all the detailed plotting I do, there are still many discoveries as I do the actual writing. Maybe that's why I don't get tired of my stories--there are always surprises.

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm somewhere in the middle with this, at least in my first two books. I do quite a bit of what I call Pre-writing, but not to this level of detail.

I'm planning to try Rebecca Lynne's Worldbuilding method in my next book, which may change my process. We'll see!

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Sarah! It will be interesting to see how Rebecca Lynn's worldbuilding class affects your writing process. The class and her handouts certainly gave me more to think about!