Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cast of Characters

This must finally be real for me because it's late and I'm pooped yet 'I must do a blog post'! Here we go!

Adding the cast of characters to the top of the outline I described in the last post was so worth the little amount effort and time it took to create and maintain it. For the new writer this is one of those 'do this now and you'll reap the benefits forever' things.

I thought I could keep all my imaginary friends in my head at all times, no problem. There are only a couple of them after all. I can summon each as I need them and twirl them about in my mental mirror. Right?

Well, obviously not. Aside from the mistakes I made over the months concerning names, descriptions, etc there is the 'duh' moment of it made it more interesting to me. I used the cast description to continually flesh who and what they were. It made it much more real for me and that translated into better characterizations in the book. It sounds obvious now but I swear at the time I felt writing down the names would be enough. New guy mistake.

Here's a snippet of the outline cast and a few things I added as I went along:

Jack Thomas
mother Joan Thomas
Emily Prescot
father Ken Prescot
uncle  John Prescot
Frankie Paxton
Annie Paxton (Frankie's sister with Scleroderma)
---
Jacks' car 65 Mustang Convertible
Frankie's car Porche

For my next book I'm going to take this a lot further. I'm going to take the time to 'create' my characters and keep track of everything about them. What do they wear, quirks, family backgrounds, I mean everything. This would have saved me tons of time going back through the book trying to remember what I had already said about the cast.

Why? It really breaks your readers flow to find contradictions and mistakes in something as basic as the characters behavior or looks. Don't let a 'mistake' turn off the reader. Your story deserves to be read and you need to keep the 'oops' out of his/her way.

OK, starting to babble, time to sum up and post.

Maintain a cast of characters at the top of your outline. Refer to it before you start writing each day. After a writing session go back to it and see if you need to update anything.

Happy writing!