Chairman of the Board

Hi everyone!  Vivienne Ylang here, again this week.  J Monkeys is off at a book signing today (12:00 – 3:00 at Hidden Treasures, the most wonderful store in Agawam Ma.  Everything is made by local crafters.) so she asked me to fill in. 

I blogged last week about my excitement in starting a new project.  This week, I thought I’d share some of my preparations with you.  Now, before you ask, I am a plotter, not a pantser.  Those wonderful writers who say they can’t wait to see what the characters have in store for them, have a talent (or psychosis, depending on your point of view) that I don’t have.  My characters are completely subject to my whims (God-complex anyone?) and as such, I need to understand them in order to write them.  That takes prep work.

Before I begin writing this story (I don’t even have a working title yet!) I do quite a bit of work.  I have pages and pages of character backstory written – much of which may never find its way into the book other than to flavor the characters.  Things that happened in the characters lives that shaped the way they see the present, scenes of times when they were happy, everyday interactions, things like that.

I write character bios, too.  I have a standard template that I use with the character’s name, birthdate, age at the start of the story (gotta pick a date that the story begins…) a physical description, height, weight, likes, dislikes, fears, quirks, strengths, flaws – you get the idea.  And then I answer a few basic questions about them.  Where did they grow up and go to school?  If he has unexpected free time, how does he spend it?  What would she die to defend


The Golden Girl

And the last thing I do to keep my characters alive in my life (for a little while) is create The Board.  My corkboard sits next to my desk and I fill it with 3×5 index cards.  Each has a picture of the character and their vital stats.  I’m a visual person, so it’s much easier to give my characters an actual face than it is to keep them all consistent in my head.  Sometimes my characters look like modern actors or other public figures, sometimes they are people from other times.  For example, I always imagine Bea Arthur as Dorothy from The Golden Girls, but I found this picture of her as a young woman and she was stunning!  You will someday find that young stunning Bea Arthur in a story of mine, believe me!

And since I’m in complete control over the characters on my board, that makes me Chairman of the Board!  😉

Today’s Secret: Don’t tell anyone, but the hero in my upcoming story has Owain Yeoman’s face and Joe Manganiello’s chest and abs.  Honestly, how could I not include those phenomenal muscles?  This could be the closest I get to touching them…probably will be, no need for that restraining order, Joe.

Today’s Question: How do you make your characters real, without inducing schizophrenia?

5 thoughts on “Chairman of the Board”

  1. I like your methodology, Viv. I’m mostly a pantser and after I’ve written a chapter or two on the fly, just to get a feel for where the story is going, I step back and do a character sketch. The bio you mentioned is so helpful in getting the flavor of the character onto the page. I also could use that cork board approach since I sometimes have trouble keeping all the details straight in my head. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Before I start my next book, I also have to plan out the story (no pantsing for me, I used to write that way and it never worked). I follow a similar process but I use index cards instead. They are easy to reorder and cheap so I can toss plot points that don’t work. But, even though I consider myself a plotter, once I start writing, anything goes. If the characters lead me in a different direction, I let them go. Later, once the first draft is done, I re-evaluate and toss what doesn’t work or add more if needed. I don’t base my characters on actual people. I do have an idea what they look like, but I leave it to the reader’s imagination to supply the actual “face.”

    1. Oh sure, I’m totally open to throwing out the outline if I think of something better, but I’ve gotta have something to start with! And for me, a book is a movie in my head – I’ve gotta see the people…

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