Monday, April 23

Writing: The Starburst Method, Part 7: The Character Grid

Welcome to part 7 of the Starburst Method! We're almost finished this series. I had planned to wrap things up this week, but when I sat down to write the last installment I realized we hadn't covered character grids.

Before we get started I should mention that this article is part of a series and, in case you'd like to look at the previous articles, I've put links to them at the bottom.

Diagramming Scenes
I love Kim Harrision's blog -- she writes urban fantasy (Dead Witch Walking was the first book in her Hollows Series) -- one day I noticed she had written a few blog posts about her writing process. I love learning how other authors write. I think I've learnt more that way than from all the conferences I've attended!

That was the first time I had seen anyone use a character grid. I think of a character grid as a visual representation of a plot. It was great! At a glance, I could see which characters were in which scenes and determine, among other things, whether one character was being over or under used. I don't know about you, but once I've written a few chapters it's easy to forget which characters were in each scene.

An Example
Rather than me rattle on about this, let me show you the character grid template I work from:
character grid for how to write series

If you compare my template with Kim Harrison's you'll find they are similar, but I like to put the archetype I think the character most exemplifies on the far right. Sometimes it's hard to get everything to fit and I have to use two pages, or go to legal size paper. Do whatever works for you, with the office supplies you have at hand.

In my character grid template character names occupy the far left column, a description of the scenes runs along the bottom and the place the scene takes place runs along the top. Instead of "day 1", "day 2", and so on, you'll put the dates your story takes place. I love Kim's practice of having each chapter take place on the same day. That way it's easy to remember when your scenes are taking place and if there's ever a question of the appropriateness of something -- like lilacs blooming in August! -- you can just glance at the date the scene takes place and look it up.

A good character grid can save you a lot of frustration. The only thing is: you need to keep it current, and that can be frustrating, but I think it's well worth the effort.

I hope something in here will be of use to you! Next week we will wrap up this series by talking about your rough draft. Till then, happy writing!

The Starburst Method, Part 1: A one sentence summary
The Starburst Method, Part 1: Creating a one sentence summary
The Starburst Method, Part 2: Developing our one sentence summary
The Starburst Method, Part 3: Creating a five paragraph summary
The Starburst Method, Part 4: Developing characters
The Starburst Method, Part 5: Creating a five page summary
The Starburst Method, Part 6: Developing scenes
The Starburst Method, Part 7: The character grid
The Starburst Method, Part 8: The rough draft and narrative drive

"The Starburst Method, Part 7: The Character Grid," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Photo credit: Funny Pet Wallpapers

Kim Harrison's character grid
Kim Harrison's post about her character grid

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