Character Balloons

purple latex balloon 24" in diameter with...
Image via Wikipedia

How to organize your cast of characters quickly. #writetip I don’t draw, but this is an easy cartoon anyone can create. If you’re like me, you’ve kept a list of characters, however small the role, somewhere on your computer. Mine are in a spreadsheet.

I start with the protagonist,  putting her/his name in the center of a blank page and drawing a balloon around her/him.

Now the fun begins.

Add the antagonist. Don’t worry if you have more than one. Pick the character who has the largest interaction with your protagonist.

Draw a line between the protagonist and the antagonist. Then write their relationship on the line. Father/daughter. Boss/Employee. You can put any other relevant information in a balloon. Words like killer, victim etc.

Continue until you have all your characters on the page. Draw a line between balloons that hold characters who have some type of relationship. This can get messy. I use dotted lines if I have to cross through one balloon to get to the next.

Add then end, you’ll have a spiderweb of  balloons.

Now you can analyze it and “see” if all the connections make sense.

The drawing will show me if there are two characters I could fold into one or if I’ve confused any relationships. Best of all, it often gives me scene ideas. Here is where I can “see” if there are questions I need to answer or  story lines I’ve left unfinished. This is why I leave this exercise until I’m close to a first draft.

Have fun with this one. It’s an entertaining way to look at your novel.


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