Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover the First Time A Character Appears. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel, so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.
In previous blogs, we’ve discussed listing the protagonist, antagonist, and all characters in a scene, but there’s more to keeping track of your characters.
I have a column to list the first time a character appears in a novel.
When I see this, I check the scene to evaluate if I’ve described the character clearly. Is there something in the description or action that will help the reader remember this character?
I don’t list unnamed characters unless they are important to the plot or story throughout the novel. I’ll explain.
- If your protagonist is in a bar and is served by a bartender, that’s there for setting, but not really for plot. The bartender doesn’t get listed in this column.
- If you’re writing a story where your protagonist is losing their mind and sees an unnamed character repeatedly, this is important to the plot and the character would get listed in this column.
I use this column to draw character arcs. I can see where characters enter the novel. You’ve probably guessed that I have a column to note when a character exits the novel.
This columns helps if I move scenes around. I don’t want end up having a scene with a character after they have already died. Although, in a paranormal novel, this may be okay. You as the writer have to decide.
I create a separate tab in my spreadsheet for character names. Every time I add a new character to this column, I add them to my character list. This helps me check for names that are too similar. Readers have a hard time distinguishing between Bob and Bill. They read the first letter, the eye skips the rest of the word, and unlucky for the writer, the reader is now confused. I try not to have any characters whose names start with the same letter. Sometimes this doesn’t work, but then I’m careful to make sure the reader is anchored when I refer to one of the characters.
Your challenge this week is to create a character arc with your characters. Check the scenes where a new character is introduced and see if you have described them well to your reader.
Please me know in the comments below if noting when your characters enter your novel is helpful to your writing process.
Thanks for reading…