Keeping Track of Small Details in a Long Novel

blog204-20checklist-20readyConsistency in small details is key to maintaining the story magic withing a novel, whether short or long.  Recording meticulous details  in notebooks, notes, online files/descriptions etc, are vital. One thing I constantly forget is the colour of my character’s eyes & hair, so I need it written down.

One useful technique I have started using recently is a spreadsheet which briefly lists each scene. I then track where all the main characters are while the scene is being enacted. This prevents characters suddenly appearing in impossible places or while they are meant to be some place else.

I also use the spreadsheet to track other elements of the longer story from scene to scene:

  • Character change from scene-to-scene/chapter-to-chapter
  • Plot development
  • Developments of theme(s)
  • Character relationships (romantic and otherwise)
  • Symbolism
  • Character mood/emotions
  • The progression of sub-plots (which are often not played out over consecutive scenes)
  • Character changes during sub plots

One of the main aims for me, is to ensure every type of progression happens logically and incrementally.

I also find it particularly useful to chart character moods and emotions from scene to scene and character relationships, because if there is going to be any meaning to the story these things have to develop as the story progresses.  However, to be effective these changes must be dripped in slowly and consistently so the reader hardly notices.

Not every author includes any symbolism in their stories, but if you can pull it off, it’s another story element that is generally buried deep within the story telling and may not even be noticed by most reader.  What they will notice, is when you get it wrong, so consistency is really important and I find a spread sheet really helps.

Hope you find that of use.


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