So last time, I told you that my next step in revisions would be to restructure the novel using index cards. Turns out I needed an extra step before I could do that: modify/redo my characters sheets.

What is a character sheet?

It depends greatly on what you write, what type of writer you are and what kind of information you need for your story. I have a specific layout that I have borrowed/modified/created:

  1. A photo

I need a visual to help me describe a character. A “feel” of the person they are, which is why I always have a photo associated with the character. I love sites like Human of New York or some Tumblr where I can find loads of inspiration for characters. It can be tricky to find a good photo to illustrate what I have in mind, but it’s essential for me.

2. The Character’s journey:

I basically tell the story from their point of view, divided into differents beats: past, beginning, inciting incident, obstacles, midpoint, more obstacles, battle, climax, resolution. These are highly dependent of my story (for instance you might not have a battle).

3. The Character in the next books

My book being the first in a series, I need to know the role of each character in the next books, what is going to be their future even if it’s still vague for me.

4. The Character’s bible

It’s a VERY LONG list of questions that will help you get all the informations about your characters. It’s very extensive and you don’t need to reply to all of them by all means. Here’s an example: http://www.epiguide.com/ep101/writing/charchart.html

Note: I only do the full list for my two main characters and the antagonist for now. I’ll use a lighter version for the secondary characters.

 

That sounds like a lot of work…

It is. In fact, it can be the most boring part of writing. The “journey” part alone can take anywhere from one day to several days to fill up, depending on how good my grasp is on that particular character. The “bible” questions are super frustrating as it addresses aspects of the character’s life that you never thought about.

But at the same time… it’s one of the most important part of writing! I only did a very basic sheet before the first draft, and as a result I still felt like I didn’t master my characters by the end of the book. I now feel like I have a much better understanding of their personality, and especially their journey. In a character driven story, it’s not enough to have plot points and stuff happening, it always needs to be lead by the characters reactions and needs/wants/frustrations. I want all my characters to try things, fail and evolve. Even the antagonist(s)!

 

So that means for my preparation to NaNoWriMo…

That I’m gonna mix Step 2 (restructuration of the novel) with Step 3 (characters sheets), with the aim to finish everything by the end of October of course.

I have already finished my 2 main characters sheets, and tomorrow I hope to finish the antagonist one. Next week, I’ll do the secondary characters while working on the index cards for the first half of the book.

Recently I asked a question to a very helpful agent about the length of my novel, and it turns out that my beloved 100K first draft is too long. So while I restructure the novel, I’ll also work on cutting a lot of unnecessary things so I can remove 20K in the second draft. I’m not really worried about that, I’m used to cutting a lot when I write short stories, and I think in this case it is going to help me concentrate on the most important part of the book.

That’s all for now. It’s mid-October already and I still have A LOT of work in front of me.