May 14, 2010

Timeline Needed? Really?

I've started working on my character charts for my new story. I was going gangbusters with the main character, thinking of awesome and unique traits....way cool stuff. And then I started giving her a family. I gave her quirky parents, hippies who were free spirits. I spun wild tales about her birth, her name, her home life.

And then I realized something most embarrassing.

My heroine is 28. Her parents got married in the 60's.  Hhhmmmmmm....that would make her, um, MID-FORTIES.

Yep. It's so embarrassing I decided to blog about it, showing my total newbie-ness. Showing my goofy thought processes. Letting the world see me struggle through this character building.

Okay, so now I have the heroine's parents getting married in the 80's. Bleh...what a decade. But, oh wait...mom can still have the BIG hair from the 80's while in her 50's. That's kinda quirky, right? I'm still struggling with her father, but since I graduated while in the 80's, I should be able to find something fun to use.

I suppose I need a timeline.  A bit tedious, I know. And yes, it will be all backstory, but to make the story work in the present, I need to have the details right in the past. It seems rather silly to go to all that trouble to make timelines and build a past for my characters, but it is important. It's important because the past makes the present believable. It's important because my heroine's past makes her who she is.

So now I continue my character building, trying things out...using pencil so that I can erase when it things don't work! It's taking longer than I thought, but I want to be thorough. I want this next story to be TONS better than my first.

You writers out there, how do you build your characters? Any tips? Tricks of the trade?

14 comments:

  1. This made me laugh.. I had a similar problem when I was creating characters. Timelines definitely help :)

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  2. So funny! I've never made a timeline because I'm lazy, but I do frequently forget the ages of my characters and also what day of the week it is in my story.

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  3. LOL Time lines sound like a good idea! It is amazing how caught up we can get that we miss such big things hey. :) good luck with the character building thing. :)

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  4. That is too funny, Sherrinda! Sounds like you're getting the hard thinking about your characters done before you get half-way through a novel. Oh, the 80's. Love the picture. I have a picture of myself similar to that pic.

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  5. Don't forget the giant football shoulder pads in all the women's clothes. LOL

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  6. Timelines are good.

    But It could've totally worked for her parents to be married in the sixties. My parents were married in 1958 and I'm 30. Then again, I'm the yougest of 8 and my oldest sister is 50.

    On the other hand, it really changes the dynamics of a family when you're born to older parents. Everyone mistakes your mom for your grandma and your sister for your mom. And as soon as you're old enough to take care of yourself, you start worrying about taking care of your parents.

    But that could be fun to work with in a story too! Whatever you decide will be wonderful, I'm sure. Good luck!

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  7. I usually do the timelines and backstories first, because that's one of my favorite parts! Isn't that odd? My stories are usually very character-driven, so I put a lot of mental energy into them from the start. I love creating a character and then getting to know her little by little. It's amazing how creative we can be when God gives us a hand!

    ~Kendra

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  8. Oh, well, don't feel bad, 'cause I didn't even DO a timeline! And I am 10,000 words into the story! Oh well, I don't think it's too important for mine right this minute. The best help I have gotten for building characters charts in Susan May Warrn's From the Inside Out. You can find it on Amazon. :)

    Go, Sherrinda!!

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  9. Lately, I've realized how helpful it can be to think outside the box. If you want her raised by hippies from the sixties, you could still do it. How, you ask? Have something happen to her parents (or single parent mom) so she has to be raised by her grandparents. This could give her some real issues--and you some real interesting possibilities as she deals with them. Just a thought from one looking at your story from outside your "box."

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  10. Love the photo. I have a similar one of me from the big bad Aqua Net 80's! :O)

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  11. I do the same thing! Have a great weekend.

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  12. Isn't that funny! I notice the more novels I read the more people are born in the 80's. I guess the ideal novel MC is 28. lol!

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  13. Thank you for sharing this, Sherrinda! We all make mistakes, and it's so comforting for us to be reminded of that--we're not alone! I shared a post a while ago on my blog about how I had messed up a speech in speech class, and realized later that I needed to be able to learn to laugh at myself. Not the easiest thing in the world to be sure! ;)

    Good luck with coming up with the backgrounds for your characters!

    ~Amber

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  14. Timelines are SO useful.

    I found out a few months ago that I had my heroine going to the bank... at 5 in the evening... on Labor Day.

    DUH ME! What in the world was I thinking?!? I just needed her to go to the bank for the story line, LOL.

    Hmmm... and 80's guy. He could have fun parachute pants!

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