Editing the first draft – Character sketches – step 3/7


Hello! For those of you who have just arrived, this post is part 3/7 in my ‘Editing the first draft’ action plan. You can find links to the other sections below, once all the posts are live.

  1. Print it off >>>
  2. Have a preliminary read through and cut out any initial ‘waffle’ that doesn’t serve the scene, and overall plot >>>
  3. Create character sketches.
  4. Create a scene list.
  5. Using the printed draft and the scene list, assess each scene in line with a ‘scene/sequel’ framework.
    5a. Cull any further waffle. Reorder scenes where necessary.
    5b. Add in scenes/notes for key details that may have been missed first time around.
  6. Write a descriptive summary of the entire plot, from start to finish
  7. Face the second draft with a new-found confidence that you will be able to write and edit with more focus and clarity.

3. Create character sketches

After finishing the first draft of my novel, I took a minor hiatus from writing whilst I focused on other things, so when coming back to edit, it had been a while since I had worked on my story. Therefore, reacquainting myself with my characters again was important before going much further. Why? In short – to ensure that my characters act in a way that is consistent with their personalities, and towards their goal.

When planning my first draft, I did as many writers recommend and I wrote some character sketches which gave me a good start in understanding who my protagonists were, what they wanted and what drove them. However, at this stage, they were not fully formed, and some characters didn’t even exist yet! It was only through writing that they started to take shape and I learnt a lot about who they were, and who I wanted them to be. Considering that the majority of readers would agree that characters can make or break a story – regardless of a riveting plot – it is important that your characters are multifaceted. They need to have had a life before the story started, have goals and plans for the future, flaws, hobbies, talents, and so the list goes on.

Alongside the above, it is important that every character is unique, has dynamic relationships and crucially, acts consistently in a way that their personalities and backgrounds dictate. This is not me saying that your characters can’t change during the novel – in fact, it is paramount that they do (the ‘character arc’ explored here) – but this change must be gradual over the course of the story. You don’t want a character who is too scared to leave the house in one scene, performing in a West End show in the next – unless you are purposely making them erratic.

So, bearing all this in mind, it is not surprising that it may be helpful to have AT LEAST the basics of your characters written down to remind you of all of these details when it comes to editing.

A couple of notes RE character sketches to bear in mind

I have included a list of some really useful posts that I have found elsewhere on the ins and outs of character sketches, so I’d recommend you look at these if you need a little more guidance. I’ve also included a couple of tips and notes of my own that should help you out.

  • You should not use all the information you write down for the main characters in the story. Readers don’t want to know EVERYTHING about your character. BUT, writing down even the most ridiculously tiny detail in your sketch may help you get a good sense of the character as a person, so it is a task worth doing. Just make sure you are selective with what goes into the novel itself.
  • For character sketches you can take a couple of approaches – you can follow a rigid framework, or you can take a more fluid approach and use rambling prose to note down everything and anything you know about your character. Before I wrote my draft I followed a framework because I felt I needed more strict guidance. When I came back to my sketches after writing the first draft I used the fluid approach. Do what works for you.
  • It is important when you write your main character sketches that you don’t just focus on the character in isolation. It is paramount that you also explore and reacquaint yourself with the relationships between characters. My novel features an engaged couple as the two main characters in the story, so not only did I write a page and a half for each character separately, I also wrote a couple of pages about their relationship.
  • Don’t forget your supporting characters. Obviously, they don’t need to be developed as much as the main characters, but it is paramount that you can define the relationship these characters have to your protagonists and their importance to the plot. If you struggle to pin down what a characters relevance to your protagonist or plot is, or your answer for example resembles ‘sold cupcake to X in bakery once’, then chances are said character is unimportant and you should seriously reconsider their place in your narrative. Let’s take the same example again but amend it slightly to ‘sold cupcake to X in bakery once, but the cupcake was poisoned/gave X magical powers/grew legs and started walking’. Now this would be a character worth spending more time developing!

Resource links

Here are a few links specifically exploring character sketches (also known as character profiles and outlines)

https://blog.udemy.com/character-sketch-examples/

http://fictionfoundry.alumni.columbia.edu/character_sketch_template

http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/jun98/how-to-create-a-character-profile-6986

And here are a few links exploring characters more generally.

http://www.nownovel.com/blog/novel-characters-15-tips/ 

http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/create-characters.html

https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/10/01/characters/

http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/character.html

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/hooked-on-a-feeling

So, once you are happy that you know your characters inside and out, head over to part 4 of the ‘editing the first draft’ action plan to start creating your scene list. >>>>>>>>>>

 

 

 

 

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