Jennifer answers Debra's question from last week...
I’m a list maker, even though I hate lists. I find them stressful and they cause me anxiety when I think of everything I have to get done.
However, as a writer, I find them essential. Last week, Debra talked about needing to find a new way of keeping track of her character’s traits. Lists are how I keep track.
As a “pantser,” I write whatever comes into my head, as my characters dictate it to me. I don’t plot ahead of time and I don’t work off an outline. As a mom, I have to find time to write when I can, which often means I can go a day or so in between spurts of writing. That means I forget what I’ve written previously. Sure, I go back and reread what I wrote yesterday, but with a limited amount of time to write, I don’t usually go back to the beginning of the story until I’m editing.
Therefore, it’s quite common for me to forget my character’s hair color, eye color or other identifying features. It sounds weird—if I see the character vividly in my mind, why don’t I remember these things? I have no idea. But I don’t. So I keep a list.
My character lists have important information about each character—physical features, likes, dislikes, history…anything that comes up while writing that helps to describe them and flesh them out. With manuscripts that run around 250-300 pages, it’s much easier to go back to my list, rather than page through the words I’ve written. Ideally, I add to it as I write, but worst case, I finish it when I make my first pass-through while editing.
The system works well for me. And then I started working with my agent, and realized I had nothing on her! Her Character List is what mine wishes it could be. First of all, it’s in a table format, while mine is, well, a list. Second, it includes many things other than just physical descriptions and obviously is meant to help someone who hasn’t read the entire manuscript to get a handle on who is in the story and why.
So I’ll be adapting my character list next time around. Not only will it’s function be to help me as a writer, but also it will make it easier for me to fill my agent’s requirements if I’ve done it as I go along.
What lists do you keep?