by Helen Woodall
Yes, I know you have done your research – spent hours delving into facts about the heroine’s career, the location where she lives, where she shops, etc. etc. But the devil is in the details, as the old cliché goes. Did you write it all down?
What about those minor characters? If the heroine has green eyes and so do three of her friends, is this an important plot point or are you just stuck in a rut on eye color? And that friend with green eyes? Why does she have blue-green eyes in chapter four and gray-green eyes in chapter fourteen?
Have you made a bible for this book? Or even a simple spreadsheet? Or did you think you would remember all these things? After all, these folk have been in your head and clamoring to be heard for months now. Still, to keep a grip on the tiny details that make a book look good (and to avoid driving your editor to chocolate), a bible for contemporary stories is nearly as important as it is for books where you are creating a new world. Especially if you have thoughts of writing a sequel.
Continuity, consistency. You described the clothing your heroine was wearing at work. She is attacked by the villain and runs away – in stilettos? Are you sure? It is a good idea to list character clothing and other details by scene (has she got a purse? laptop? briefcase?) so you can refer back and check each scene carefully. Once again, watch out for the minor characters. You know the hero drives a sleek red sports car but what about his friend Pete the plumber? He probably drives a truck. Why was it a blue pickup in chapter six and suddenly it’s a white SUV in chapter twenty-five?
Another point to watch is meals. Yes, I know your heroine absolutely adores Chinese food but she ate it in chapter four. And in chapter six. And in chapter twelve. Hmmm, are we seeing a plot point here or is she in urgent need of some nutritional advice?
When describing a town, be sure to make yourself a map. If the heroine drives north from work to visit Grandma in chapter ten she needs to do the same in chapter nineteen. And if it took twenty minutes the first time and thirty the second there needs to be a good reason for this. Again, note it in your bible.
List the names of even the minor characters. You may have four friends named Leah, but if there is more than one Leah character in your book it will drive the readers crazy working out which is which. And while we are talking about names, please check their meanings too. It is really hard to like a heroine whose name means something nasty in another language.
So check all those details, and then write them down. And be sure to give a copy of your story or series bible to your editor, so she can double-check things.
Monday, June 30, 2008
by Helen Woodall
Labels: Writing Advice