Keeping Track of Story Details

Randy Ingermanson’s blog contained a list of questions he’s going to tackle over the next week/month/year, how ever long it takes him to get through them. He asked for a vote: which question to conquer first? The list of questions inspired me to write a blog entry of my own, answering one of them: how do you keep track of story details?

I keep track of story details in an elaborate three-ring binder, divided into four sections: a character table, a map section, a calendar of events, and character profiles.

The character table is separated into columns, each containing a different set of information: character names, occupations, place of residence, special skills, family members, description, and special notes. It’s handy to sort the table in different ways within my word processor, but I usually keep it alphabetically by character name. I find myself forgetting a minor character’s description or spouse name (I have a massive cast for my book series), so it’s nice to have all that at my fingertips without having to sift through my text.

My map section is relative small. I’ve got a hand-drawn map of the region my story takes place, and hand-drawn map of the wilderness setting where most of my story takes place. I’ve also got a small-scale city drawing so I can remember the basic layout: river, docks, shipping district, housing, downtown, residential areas, and outlying farming community.

The most valuable section is my calendar. Each page covers one month; I simply write in the highlights of each day on the proper date. I not only keep track of plot points, I also track my protagonist’s birthday, the equinox and solstices, pregnancy due dates, foreign events — basically anything that can be attached to a date and has significance within my story.

The fourth section contains my character profiles, usually one sheet per character, and an odds-and-ends section where I keep track of things like foreign words I’ve used in the story, city populations, the meanings of names, etc. 

That’s how I do it, for what it’s worth.

-Sonja

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