Before beginning the writing of your novel, you can save time and frustration by creating a Character Bible for your lead characters. Since you create these characters, you may feel you know them so well that they are alive in your head. Often, though, by the time you’re halfway through the book, you’re wondering if Jackie likes coffee or tea in the mornings. Then you have to thumb back through the pages or do a search-and-find to get the answer.
If you have to do this with your leads, you’ll for sure end up doing it with your incidental or supporting characters. That’s a time suck. Avoid wasting your time. Create a Character Bible for your main characters and a shorter listing for your lesser characters.
You can find lists of character questions on the Internet. I suggest you create your own. Some standard things you’ll want to include are:
Events that Changed or Cemented the Course of the Character’s Life
After that, you can pick and choose things to note on the particular character, like:
Pets - you don’t want to give Jackie a poodle to subtly let the reader know she’s likeable despite what her cubicle mates at work say, then send Jackie off on a business trip to Luckenbach, Texas, for two weeks and never mention the dog trapped in the tiny apartment because you’ve forgotten little Puff Ball….’cause the reader won’t forget or forgive the starving dog.
Hobbies - Jackie doodles a lot. She’s not an artist, but is good enough that she sends handmade cards to friends at Christmas. This will come in handy later when she sees a robbery and is able to do a sketch of the guy.
Etc. - whatever fits or is important to remember for that particular character
The list can go on and on, depending on how much you know and learn about each character.
The Character Bible will be shorter for your minor and secondary characters, but they, too, are essential to do in order to save you time. Note names, relationships, work, hobbies, looks, and anything you feel you’ll need to know.
Some things you will know before you ever put fingers to keyboard. Some things you’ll learn as you write. Take a moment, open the Character document and note them.
Trust me, by book three in the series, you’ll need to know this stuff. If you forget and you don’t have your Bible to refer to, you’ll either spend hours or days going back to gather it or boocoodles of money to get someone like me to create it for you.
author, blogger, freelance editor and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free e-zine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its eleventh year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.