Something that’s mentioned fairly often but doesn’t get talked about clearly is a story bible/story binder. I’ve loved the idea of having a story binder for a while, and I started making one for House of Mages, but it didn’t really go anywhere. There’s not a lot of guidance for writers who want to make one. Well I went looking back in April and decided to start a story binder for my Camp story, The Heart of the Baenor. It now also holds the notes for The Dark War Trilogy, since they take place on the same planet, and I thought I’d share with you what I included in my binder in case you’re in the same boat I was in and are wondering what to include Continue reading “My Story Binder”
I have lots and lots and lots of ideas for stories. My brain is teeming with them. I have way more than I know what to do with. (Enough so that I might start a blog series giving them away so that they’ll get used.) So how do I organize them all?
New ideas always go into whatever writing notebook I’m currently using, or possibly my little blue ideas notebook that has been left alone for far too long in favor of my main notebooks. Poor thing. An example of a section of one of those pages looks like this:
It has any story ideas on it that come to mind, be they short snippets of scenes, dialogue, description, or names. Then at some point later I transfer them to a document I’ve titled “Writing Adoptables,” which is split into sections.
The first section is characters, and it has whatever facts about a character I have swirling in my brain and don’t plan on using in a current project. That section looks like this:
Any ideas I use in any of these sections will be formatted with strike-through.
The next section is settings, and as you can see in the picture below I do quite a bit with it:
Not. For some reason settings don’t pop into my head as readily as other things.
After that is titles, which I have a lot of, most of which came from title generators that I was using to come up with a title for a specific book and these didn’t fit but I liked them at the time and saved them. And then there are others that I came up with myself, one of which is blacked out because I like it enough to protect it (not that I expect any of you to take any of these):
I actually started Skandain’s Pride and then decided I didn’t like it much, so it’s still on here.
The fourth section is random lines. These can be lines of dialogue, lines of description, lines of narration, anything so long as it’s only a line or two long.
Section five is plot ideas, followed by various ideas that don’t fit in any specific category:
As you can see, plots aren’t something that tend to pop into my head unbidden, either.
The next section is names, and these are rather plentiful. The majority of them are fantasy names, since I find those the coolest, and this list (though not the visible section) includes a place name or two, as well:
After that comes a list of stories that I started or that I had cool ideas for and were too long for me to copy:
Some of them got so far as to even earn Pinterest boards before I lost interest or set them aside in favor of something else.
the last section is scenes and paragraphs, and it’s the longest section, partially because there are a lot of them and mostly because they’re just longer:
This is just the very small sliver that fit before the bottom of the page, and even the second one is a lot longer than it shows here. It’s 10 paragraphs long, actually, mostly dialogue. (I write a lot of dialogue. It’s something I’m working on balancing out.)
So that’s how I organize my ideas. Do you organize your ideas similarly or is your process entirely different?
A bullet journal is something that I’ve seen lots of authors, and non-authors, using. I tried it out a while ago and it didn’t really work well for me. But I’m also pretty sure I was using it wrong, which probably affected the use I got out of it. At the beginning of the month I found a video that better explained how to use it (I’m not comfortable linking to said video because it had enough language in it I almost didn’t finish it) and decided to give it another try. I used the same notebook that my failed attempts are in, and now I consider my bullet journal starting at about page 23, because the rest of it isn’t really a bullet journal because I had no idea what I was doing. So here’s the process I’m using now, and hopefully it helps out someone else who is maybe in the same boat that I was in and doesn’t really understand the bullet journal system.
To begin with there’s a legend, which I originally used to mark pages, but now I use to mark goals. All but two of the above are stories I’m working on/I have waiting in the wings, and the colors aren’t nearly as dull as they look here, I’m just a really bad photographer. The ones written in lighter are ones that I expect to change the titles of.
This is a piece of my monthly “spread,” as it’s called in official videos. The dates are down the side, and I have written in the blog posts I’m putting up those days. (Hooray! You get a sneak peek of what’s coming up!) I also have icons next to those that I have events to go to.
This is below the end of my monthly list, though you can’t see that in this picture. It has my main goals for the month, and this month I have more than usual because before this system I didn’t really make myself goals.
This is my first daily spread. Beside the date I have my word count for that day, and then below that is my list of goals for the day. The arrows indicate I postponed that goal, and Xs indicate cancelled goals.
I also kind of use my bullet journal as a space to talk about my writing progress, and so for each day I have a journal section where I talk about my writing that day and how it went and if anything special happened. On the 4th I troubleshooted a part of House of Mages and mentioned a piece to cut, on the 7th I mentioned some cool things I’d learned while researching for Dark Queen Rising and that I finally picked a satisfactory name for one of the characters in that, etc. And there have also been days that I’ve used this space to make writing-related lists or notes, as well. I have a full two pages dedicated to blog post topics between the 9th and 10th (which really annoys me, but I needed the space).
Overall, this has really helped me because it gives me some accountability with myself. I like seeing the pretty colored boxes checked off. I’ve written a lot more this month than most non-NaNoWriMo months, I think. I’ve written 35,193 words this month already, and I had a 7k+ day, which I’m fairly certain has only happened once outside of NaNoWriMo. And it was also very instrumental in reviving my blog. I wouldn’t have started posting so regularly if not for the organization that my bullet journal has provided.
Overall, I’m very glad I found that video and learned how to use a bullet journal, because it has helped me a lot. Hopefully this post was helpful to you like that video was to me. :)
Character development is something that I really enjoy in writing. I enjoy getting to know the characters, being surprised by them, falling in love with them or being repulsed by them, some of my characters even scare me. Characters are the first thing I notice in a story, because they’re the main part of the story, possibly even more than the plot itself. They’re who the story centers around and you have to be able to at least tolerate them for the entirety of the book. Unfortunately, I’ve read some books that I could only go so far as to tolerate the characters of, or whose characters downright annoyed me. So how do we get to know our characters inside out so that we can make readers love our characters? (Make is a bit harsher a word than I want, but I’m not thinking of one that fits at the moment.)
In this post I’ll cover some exercises that can help us really get to know our characters.
To begin I’m going to say that I agree with Shaelin from ShaelinWrites on YouTube in that I think you get to know your characters best by writing them. I suggest watching her video on exercises to develop characters, because it’s really good. I really like her whole channel, actually, though there are rare occasions on which when uses the S-word, which I would warn you of before you start watching them. Further warning, I can’t in good conscience recommend the videos that include her brother because he cusses more, and in one (Writing High Fantasy) he drops an F-bomb, which is really a shame because otherwise it’s a really great video, but overall her channel is cleaner than some other writing channels I’ve seen. Anyway, that turned into an unexpectedly long bunny trail. *cough* Let’s get back on track, shall we?
I think you get to know characters best by writing them, and so most of the tips and tricks in here will probably have to do with writing your characters in one way or another.
Since I linked to Shaelin’s video I’ll just give short explanations of the methods laid out in said video, in case you’re not going to watch it, and if you’d like them expanded on you can watch the video.
The first method she suggests is basically word association. You make a list of things that remind you of your character. The second method is to grab a list of adages (curiosity killed the cat, the early bird gets the worm, a watched pot never boils, etc.) and write how your character would feel about these adages. Would they agree or disagree with them? Method number three is to write scenes about your character. They can be scenes from the book, or just random situations that you throw your character into and see how they react to. The last method she suggests is to make a pyramid of motivations, which I can’t really explain and you’ll have to watch the video to get explained.
And now we get into my suggestions. One of the things I do the most to flesh out a character is to role play (RP) with them. I tend to RP with my best friend since she’s also a writer and I don’t really have many other people to RP with, and we just toss our characters together and see what happens in certain situations. We have soooo many RPs going at once it’s not even funny. A lot of them end up neglected, and the majority of them focus on the same core group of characters that we call “The Squad,” but that’s not something I suggest, lol. It’s better to play around with different characters, see how they react to different people, different situations, etc. Some will get along really well and some just… won’t, just like in real life, and it’s really interesting to see those relationships unfold. A couple of my characters and hers have actually gotten married to each other in alternate timelines, so… yeah. AUs (Alternate Universes) for the win!
You can also use character profiles. These can be more or less helpful depending on what questions are on it. I’ve actually learned a lot about characters from templates that have deeper questions, while more shallow ones are just a “laundry list of facts,” as Shaelin calls them. They’re not really helpful. So if you can find a really extensive, deep character profile, I suggest filling it out and seeing what you learn about your character. The only downside to these long ones is the fact that they can be really tedious to fill out. I have one that works well for me that a friend of mine gave me and I altered slightly, and while it’s really, really helpful, I also occasionally have to take breaks when filling it out because it’s so extensive. And there are some that are a happy medium, and those are pretty good, too. Again, it depends on what questions are asked.
These are the best ways I’ve found to develop characters, and hopefully they’re helpful for you as well. :)