THE MAD GUIDE TO MAINTAINING CHARACTER CONTINUITY PART 1: PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

If you’re anything like me, you have at least three writing projects going at a time, which can lead to inconsistencies in continuity- a serious crime for any writer.  When your characters are more complex (they have a specific perfume, for example), it’s remarkably easy to muddle the small details.  I have always kept extensive notes and tables on my characters and settings, and I refer to them often when I want to know how a character is likely to react to something, or remind myself of one of their habits or mannerisms.

 

Then, it came to me.  Lists like this can add depth to, or even create, your characters.  We’ve been doing it backwards.  Instead of filling them in as we work through the creation process, we should just do it first.

 

Human beings are consistent; we tend to act within roughly the same parameters in similar circumstances.  Our characters should therefore, be the same, although obviously not to the point that they become robotic.  If we have a general idea, noted in table form, at least in my case, we have a starting point, and a near foolproof way of keeping characters consistent.

 

If we are doing this thing properly, characters are complex.  As a result, I divide my spreadsheet into pages, which I then print, and keep in the hard copy of my story bible.  To me, it makes sense to start with what a character looks like.  The table doesn’t always have to be as intensive as I’ve made it here, but for the purposes of sharing my ideas, I’ve included as many categories as I have.

 

As I mentioned, this form of listing character’s traits can come in handy when developing characters.  If I’m battling for inspiration, I just do a simple alphabet brainstorm as I work my way down the list.  For a better idea of how to do this, see the example below:

Character Continuity Example

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

  • Body Type
  • Skin Tone
  • Face Shape
  • Eye Color
  • Eye Shape
  • Glasses/ contacts
  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • General Facial Feature
  • Hair color
  • Hairstyle
  • Style of dress
  • Colors (the colors this character is comfortable wearing)
  • Often wears
  • Sleeps in
  • Smells like
  • Special Jewelry/ Accessories
  • Carries- as in purse, bag, wallet etc
  • Makeup/ Paints nails/ other enhancements
  • Most striking/ memorable Physical Feature.

 

I arrange characters in alphabetical order, so if I need to check something they’re as easy as possible to find.  It comes in very handy, especially for less important characters, as continuity in this department does much to tie everything together.

 

Once I know what my characters look like, I make sure all their general information is in the right places.  Next post I’ll take you through what I include in this list, and why I consider these things important.

 

Until then, Write Madly On…

 

Rhi

 

MAD SCENE CARDS FOR YOU

I thought it was about time I published a scene card in a format other people can use, so I did.  Please feel free to download my scene card and use it to plot your novel or lay out your scenes.  I make my scene cards in Powerpoint so I can save them in PNG or JPEG format and tack them on to my computer storyboard, but obviously, if you prefer excel or word, or handwriting for that matter, you’re welcome to use the template.

Scene Cards in Progress

Enjoy, keep the feedback coming, and, as always, write madly.

Rhi

EYE COLOR CAN ADD DEPTH TO YOUR CHARACTERS

We all know Character is vital when telling a story, and the better we know our characters, the more believable and relatable they are to readers.  Statistics tell us how we describe a character’s physical appearance is vital to the reader, and, in, general, the better, or more unusual looking they are, the more likely the reader is to care about them.  In the wake of my last post, it struck me that eye color specifically, but not exclusively, could be deeper and more symbolic of your character’s personality, so I redid the eye color chart, in the hope they would be inspirational, and may help us to add more to our characters.

 

There is plenty online about colors and their meanings, and clearly, there are only a certain number of eye colors.  Thus, meaning is limited, and open to interpretation.  A lot rests on the writers, as we can- within reason- expand the symbolism and meaning of eye colors depending on our context and intentions.  I have done so below.

 

BLUE EYES

 

General Personality:

Cute, attractive, social, loves to make friends, kind, polite, funny, creative, intelligent, passionate, loveable, kind, caring, sensitive, calm in stressful situations, cool, idealistic, truthful, self-reliant, professional, honorable, reliable, depressive, bored, cold, deep, stable.Blue Eyes

 

Baby Blue: Youthful, playful, immature, energetic, naïve gullible, good-hearted, warm, affectionate, sweet, charming, spoiled, needy, dependent.

Caribbean Blue: Unusual, glamorous, colorful, sultry, lonely, musical, isolated, lonely, optimistic, laid back

Cornflower Blue: Playful, young at heart, optimistic, sweet natured, Naïve, feminine, attractive, imaginative, down to earth, fickle, impulsive

Electric Blue: Exciting, emotional, magnetic personality, energetic, powerful, dangerous, volatile, unpredictable, short-tempered, nurturing, moody

Gunmetal Blue: Physically strong, cool and calculating, lacks empathy, short tempered, calm, resilient, dangerous

Ice Blue: Wise, unemotional, cool and calm, cold, calculating, isolated, unaffectionate, lacks empathy, rigid, hardworking, creative, logical. Intimidating

Ocean Blue: Deep, dangerous, intimidating, secretive, adventurous, emotional, uncompromising, strong, lively, unpredictable, tempestuous, powerful, unforgiving

Sapphire: Strong, elegant, graceful, sophisticated, interesting, Loyal, optimistic, fresh, strong, focused, wise, truthful, intuitive, quick witted, sharp tongue

Sky Blue: Indecisive, Imaginative, spiritual, open minded, changeable, open minded, adventurous, free spirited, cheerful, charming, emotional, fickle, independent, moody, and volatile

Steel Blue: Physically strong, cold, calculating, stubborn, calm, emotionally controlled, hardy, resilient, hardworking, focused, lonely, determined

Turquoise: Good communicator, clear thinker, calm, confident, creative, sensitive, idealistic, impractical, boastful, sociable, fears being alone

 

BROWN EYES

General Personality:

Industrious, Trustworthy, responsible, seductive, wise, independent, suspicious, likes to be the center of attention, funny, popular, sociable, kind, mysterious, creative, traditional, organized, conventional, down to earth, loves nature, physically strong, relaxed, casual, reassuring, nurturing, solid, stubborn, narrow minded, doesn’t accept help

Brown Eyes

Amber: Courageous, carefree, cheerful, wise, warm, fun, sense of humor, indecisive

Chestnut Brown: Strong, athletic, energetic, warm, wise, interesting, quiet

Chocolate Brown: Passionate, loving, sensitive, generous, kind, attentive, fun loving, self-centered, prone to excess

Cognac: Cultured, elegant, ambitious, sociable, materialistic, high standards, successful, powerful

Honey Brown: Sensual, elegant, flexible, loving, busy, hardworking, team player, excessive, charming, and fickle

Nut Brown: Strong, aloof, suspicious, lots of potential

Onyx: Controlled, decisive, protective, intuitive, erratic, powerful, optimistic, energetic

Russet Brown: Wholesome, reliable, steadfast, friendly

 

GREEN EYES

General Personality:

Strong, never backs away from a challenge, daring, born leader, passionate, love making people laugh, lots of potential, adventurous, love nature, soulful, youthful, reliable, calm, optimistic, energetic, vibrant, immature, jealous, impulsive

Green Eyes

Aquamarine: Relaxed, calm, trustworthy, fearless, protective, happy

Bottle Green: Good communicator, excessive, addictive, heart on sleeve, tempestuous, changeable

Emerald: Mysterious, calm, peaceful, caring, unique

Forest Green: Secretive, deep, dark, troubled, dangerous, and intuitive

Jade Green: Wise, calm, peaceful, intelligent, humble, introverted, shy

Olive: Cunning, sly, ambitious, optimistic, idealistic, manipulative, intelligent, nostalgic, powerful, patient, serene, peaceful

 

GREY EYES

General Personality:

Conservative, traditional, intelligent, serious, emotional, sensitive, mysterious, dull, depressive, cold, industrious, wise, gentle, energetic dark, unique, ingenious, quick thinking, witty, loves rain, easy to confide in, likes safety

Grey Eyes

Cool Grey: Depressive, gentle, mysterious, calm, clean, and stoical

Marble Grey: Controlled, physically strong, heavy, sensible, logical, down to earth, narrow minded, stubborn, uncompromising, decisive, intellectual, protective, calm, stable, structured, and emotionally balanced

Misty Grey: Indecisive, calm, quiet, introverted, deep, hostile, serene, secretive, balanced

Silver: Feminine, intellectual, magical, spiritual, mysterious, wise, strong, fluid, flexible

Sugar Grey: Fun, romantic, good-natured, sweet, and indecisive, does not finish what they start, charming positive anxious, superficial

 

UNUSUAL COLORS

Unusual Eyes

Black/ Charcoal: Authoritative, powerful, glamorous, efficient, mysterious, cold, menacing, fearful, evil, dark, dangerous, depressive, deep, dramatic, elegant, sophisticated, formal, lacks imagination, powerful

Violet: Imaginative, creative, spiritual, powerful, dangerous, elegant, sophisticated, ambitious, magical, artificial, materialistic, critical, sets high standards, trustworthy, intuitive

As always, enjoy, please let me know if you found this post helpful, and keep writing madly,

 

Rhi

Some Fantastic Mad Character Description Lists

A physical description of a character, for me anyway, is as good a place to start as any, but isn’t always as easy as it sounds.  If the goal is to avoid so called generic characters and repeats, you have to stretch your imagination a bit to keep things fresh.  It is for this reason I put together the following character descriptions in list format.

The lists include

  1. Body Type and Description
  2. Skin Tone & Description
  3. Face Shape and Description
  4. Eye Color
  5. Eye Shape
  6. Nose
  7. Mouth
  8. General Features
  9. Hair Color
  10. Hair Style and Texture
  11. Dress Style

Body Type and Description List

Skin Tone and Description ListFace Shape and Description ListEye Color ListEye Shape ListNose shape & description listMouth Description ListList Hair StylesHair Style and Texture ListDress Style ListI hope they help, and keep writing madly.

Rhi

Questions for Writers in 2016

If you’re a writer, a new year means reassessing and redefining your goals going forward.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself to make the process clearer.

  • What goals did you set for yourself in 2015?  Did you achieve them? Why? Or Why Not
  • What was your biggest achievement in 2015? Your biggest failure?  Why?
  • What inspired you this past year?
  • What held you back/ demotivated you? How can you eliminate this in 2016?
  • What worked for you last year? What didn’t?
  • What lessons did you learn in 2015? How will this change the coming year?
  • What are your weaknesses? What are you going to do about them?
  • What are your strengths? How are you going to make the most of them?
  • What do you want to have achieved this time next year?
  • What do you need to have done before you see yourself as a writer? How long will it take? What can you do this year to move it along?
  • What do you need to buy in 2016 to assist in your writing goals?
  • What plans, calendars and timetables do you need to make for the New Year?
  • How do you need to change/ create your writing space?
  • What books do you need to read to improve your writing?
  • What do you need to be the best you can be
  • Who do you need to contact to further your goals?
  • What skills do you need to master?
  • Who inspires you? How can you spend more time with them?
  • What can you take from 2015 and include in your writing? Draw from your life, others, and your environment?

 

And the final, most important question you need to ask:  

What’s stopping you from being the writer you want to be in 2016?

I can answer that one, NOTHING.

Go for it, let me know how your writer’s journey is shaping up in the New Year, and, as always, keep writing madly.

Rhi

USE WHAT YOU HAVE TO KICKSTART YOUR IMAGE SYSTEM FOR MAD THEME AND DEPTH

Before i explain what an image system is, let me just add; I came across an online post about image systems before I’d even been published, and I admit, in my enthusiasm I only skimmed the content before creating the most intense thirty page version you can imagine.  It was useful, and still is, for everything I write.  However, there’s no need to go to such lengths to add a level of symbolic and thematic depth to your writing.  In fact, many of the elements you could use for thematic purposes are in your scenes already.  They have to be.

WHAT IS AN IMAGE SYSTEM

An image system is a mechanism which allows you to use recurring symbols  and motif to emphasize and deepen theme, mood, emotions and characters in your story.

I quote from the original article I found, though I no longer have the source.  (If anyone recognizes it please let me know so I can credit the writer properly.)

In a film, an image system might include repeating shot compositions—for example, a movie might use a certain shape or image in a landscape and repeat it throughout the film. An image system often uses specific colors—some which may not be easy at first to notice or that work on a subliminal level in some way.

Great novelists know the power of motif and symbolism, often using something like a repeated word or phrase, or an object of importance to the character, to bring a richness to the story and to enhance the theme of their novel. In effect, they are creating something similar to an image system. By taking a look at some of the ways filmmakers develop image systems for their films, novelists can learn much and expand their technique.

Ask these questions about each of your scenes:

What are the main elements (or one main element) that should dominate the scene and be brought to the reader’s attention? Can these be an object or word/phrase or bit of setting that can be symbolic and repetitive in your novel?
• What should and shouldn’t be included in the scene that will help the reader focus on that element? (Think about all that unnecessary narrative or trivial dialog.)
• What meaning will be conveyed subconsciously by these elements you show?

Overlying all this is your main theme or core idea. You’ve perhaps been told you should be able to sum up your premise in a sentence or two (elevator pitch). In that premise lies your core idea for your book. You may have gotten a germ of an idea for your novel, and from that you developed characters with issues and goals, and you came up with settings and scene ideas to play out your storyline. But overlying all that is your core idea.”

Personally, I like to take the following into account:

  • Theme and Message: the underlying theme and message I want my piece to focus on.  I will choose appropriate symbols within the setting and use them to bring themes together.
  • Characters and arcs: I pick a symbol for what lies at the core of each of my main character, and try and integrate into my scene whenever I want to draw attention to that character and their changes.  For example, one of my MC’s is an albino with a massive intellect, so I used an owl; a symbol of wisdom which also reminds on a very subtle level of his ability to spend time in sunlight.
  • Foreshadowing: for this I use symbols and omens traditionally recognisable, but not too commonly circulated.  A white moth inside someone’s house could foreshadow death for example.
  • Repeated emotions throughout the piece.  If you’re writing a thriller or a horror, your reader and characters will (hopefully) be scared.  I pick some emotions I can attach a running motif to, and won’t be uncommon in my chosen setting and integrate them whenever my characters feel the intended emotions.
  • Settings and events: if a significant event is going to, or has happened in your setting, can you link the setting and the symbolism associated with  the event.  If, for example, if a hostile action, threat or death happens, can you add a crow.  If someone is unjustly accused or imprisoned, would a caged bird, or even an empty cage fit?

Below are some images detailing western symbolic meaning of some very common elements of scene.  As always, please keep me updated.

Write madly

Rhi

Time and Season Western SymbolismWeather and Topography western

Animals and Human Life Western SymbolsAd

Colour western symbolism

TO WRITE MAD DIALOGUE, YOU NEED TO CONSIDER THE 5 CONTEXTUAL DIMENSIONS

Do you find your dialogue seems to take place in spite of, not with the other elements in your scene? Perhaps you’re only considering one dimension of the context in which your conversation is taking place.

There are, in fact, five dimensions of context to bear in mind when  you’re writing dialogue, and neglecting any one will detract from the realism of the conversation.  There are times when the context is overbearing, and colors much of what your character say to one another, but the subtle dynamics are still there, and they do change aspects of how your characters get their message across.

  1. Physical
  2. Social
  3. Historical
  4. Psychological, and
  5. Cultural

Continue reading

LIST OF LITERARY THEMES FOR WRITING MAD MEANING

List of literary themes

Sometimes it isn’t so easy to put what you want to say into a box.  You know what’s on your mind, but the challenge lies in communicating your message to your reader.  Go through this list of themes and see if anythings comes close to what you are trying to say. Adding layers of symbolism and meaning is so much easier when you have a few simple words to use as a base.

Keep writing madlyRhi

SIX THINGS YOU HAVE TO GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR STORY

Here is another spread you can use for both plot and character creation.  Please note, I found much of what I’m using here on Pinterest, and have just adapted the little note I found, which I will include at the end.

Shuffle the cards and lay them out, from left to right, in two rows of three.  Each card represents something you have to give your main characters.

CARD 1: SOMEONE TO CARE ABOUT 

No man is an island, and giving your character someone to care about serves a number of purposes.  It makes them more relatable, more likeable, and most important; it gives you as the writer, a way to raise the stakes.  This person shouldn’t just be someone your character cares about when they happen to meet over coffee; it should be someone they would sacrifice a great deal for; someone who could be threatened or kidnapped.  In short, you’re providing a weapon for your antagonist.

CARD 2: SOMETHING TO WANT

This card refers to your character’s goal for the course of the story.  Interpret your card with the following in mind.

  • Their goal should be original
  • It should be something they feel passionate about
  • It should be something they have to make sacrifices to achieve
  • The consequences of failing to achieve this should be as awful as you can make them.

CARD 3: SOMETHING UNKNOWN

Depending on what you are writing, you can interpret this card in one of two ways.

  1. Give your character a mystery to solve. At the heart of this mystery lies the attainment of whatever your character wants in card two.  They cannot achieve their goal until they’ve solved their mystery.
  2. An element of the character’s personality they are unaware of, such as physical and emotional strength or a skill communicating with others. They will discover this element throughout your piece and this will help them achieve their goal.

CARD 4: SOMETHING TO DREAD

If you give your character something to fear, at the same time you give them an obstacle to overcome.  You also add an element to their back-story, there must be a reason for their fears.  Fear of anything holds character’s back.  Create a situation where your character cannot achieve their goal unless they face this fear and embody this fear in your antagonist, so he has to do it all again in your climax.

CARD 5: SOMETHING TO SUFFER

Your hero should suffer more and more as you build to your climax.  His suffering should be both physical and psychological and tempt him to give up his quest and return to normal life.  If he could give in at any moment, your readers will keep turning the pages, wondering if he will.

CARD 6: SOMETHING TO LEARN

Your character’s lesson is the backbone of your arc, and should link directly to your themes for the maximum effect.  Ideally, the lesson should be twofold; he should learn something about himself, and about the society in which he lives.  This ah- ha moment should occur just before your climax, when he has all but given up.  It is this lesson that gives him the courage to fight the final battle.

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As always, I hope this helps, and look forward to your feedback.

Keep writing madly.

Rhi

USE PLAYING CARDS TO OUTLINE YOUR NOVEL, CREATE MAD CHARACTERS AND ADD MAD ELEMENTS TO YOUR WRITING

CARTOMANCY

Cartomancy is basically Tarot Card reading, but with a pack of normal, every day playing cards.  I came across this idea accidentally while doing research for one of my own writing projects, Voodoo Carnival.  Not only did it add another element of depth, and simplicity, which was surprising, but I was provided with a great deal of inspiration for the plot, and for creating the characters themselves.  It’s so easy, and the readings can be interpreted to suit your novel to a point of course which is marvelous.

HOW TO READ THE CARDS TO ENRICH YOUR WRITING

There are so many different spreads out there, to cater for the various questions in an actual reading.  But I find they can be easily adapted to suit whatever element of your writing you’d like to enrich.

Before you start, I’ve compiled a PDF file to outline the meanings of each card in the deck.  Please excuse any repetitions, I’m so excited about this I just wanted to share so others could start benefiting too! An edited version is on the way.

card meanings for writers

1 CARD READING- ANSWER A QUESTION:

Are you wondering what next? Or where a character should go? Or what choice they should make? Or even what obstacle to add to the mix that raises the stakes?  If you want a quick answer to a question, the one card reading is the way to go.  Just shuffle the cards and focus on your question, pull one card and interpret using my guide to meanings below.  Simple.  If the card you draw doesn’t fit.  Just draw another one.

THE THREE CARD SPREAD- AN OVERVIEW OF A CHARACTER, A MINI PLOT, OR A SPECIFIC SITUATION.

This spread can even be used to add depth to your setting if interpreted as such.  Again, shuffle the cards while focusing on your question, lay out your three cards from left to right.

Three card reading past present futureCARD 1: The Past,

This can be in reference to

  • a character’s past (The back Story)
  • The past leading up to a specific moment in your story
  • The exposition of your plot
  • The history of your setting

CARD 2: The present

This can refer to

  • A character’s current situation- their state at the beginning of your piece
  • A specific event or element of your piece
  • Elements in the stage of your plot you’re focusing on that you may not have considered
  • Elements of your setting you may not have considered, and which have an impact on your plot or characters
  • The Current mood and atmosphere of your setting

CARD 3: The future

This can refer to:

  • The character’s future- what is going to happen to them either during your piece or after the resolution
  • The outcome of a specific event in your plot
  • The outcome of your plot- the resolution
  • What is going to happen to your setting or in your setting

CARD READINGS FOR ENRICHING CHARACTERS

THE GMC SPREAD

This is a six card spread that outlines your character’s internal and external goals, motivations and conflicts.  Shuffle the cards and lay out two rows of three, from left to right.GMC Spread for Character

Card 1: Internal Goal

  • What does your character need, unconsciously, emotionally?
  • What lessons do they need to learn?
  • What fears do they have to face?

Card 2: Internal Motivation

  • Why is it important your character achieve their internal goals?
  • What do they need at the core?
  • What is most important to them?

Card 3: Internal Conflict

  • What emotions, thoughts, fears and moral dilemmas prevent your character from achieving their internal goals?
  • What preconceptions may be limiting them?
  • Are they mistaken about themselves, their capabilities?
  • Do they lack confidence?

Card 4: External Goal

What does your character want, consciously and tangibly?

Card 5: External Motivation

  • Why do they want it?
  • What drives them to achieve it?
  • Why can’t they fail?
  • What do they need most?
  • What do they love/ desire more than anything?

Card 6: External Conflict

  • What is preventing your character from achieving their tangible goal?
  • Other characters?
  • Society?
  • Nature?
  • Machine?
  • Something supernatural?

THE MAGIC SQUARE SPREAD

Before starting, select a card representing your character using the guide.  If you need to create a character, shuffle the relevant cards and choose one at random.

  1. Place the chosen card to the side and shuffle the remainder of the deck, focusing on the character in question.
  2. Take four cards from the top of the deck and lay them out, from left to right, 1, 2, 3 in the first row and the fourth card on the second.
  3. Insert the card you put aside, card 5
  4. Pull four more cards from the top of the pack and lay them out from left to right. Your spread should look the same as the nine card spread when completed.

Magic square Spread for CharactersCARD 1- INDIVIDUALITY: The true nature of your character

CARD 2- DUALITY: Your Character’s relationships with others

CARD 3- STABILITY: What is stable in your character’s life

CARD 4- TENACITY: What beliefs and behaviors are most important to your character, the things they wont compromise on.

CARD 5- POTENTIALITY: Who your Character is, or in some cases, who he or she could, or wants to be at the conclusion of your piece

CARD 6- OPPORTUNITY: What opportunities does this character’s personality present.

CARD 7- SPIRITUALITY: Your character’s religious/ spiritual beliefs, or the degree of religious/ spiritual influence on their lives

CARD 8- NEGATIVITY: The character’s weaknesses

CARD 9- POSITIVITY: The character’s strengths

THE CHARACTER ARC

This spread outlines your character’s development throughout your piece.  It is laid out from back to front as I find it easier to outline character arcs from the end back, but please feel free to change the order if you wish.

CHARACTER ARCShuffle the cards and lay the out as per the illustration, from right to left this time.

Card 1: Final State

  • What does your character know at the end that they didn’t know at the beginning?
  • How have they changed?
  • How have their circumstances improved?
  • What changes have they made?

Card 2: Moment of truth

  • The point where your character has to decide whether to change, and be happy, or not change and be miserable.
  • What and who pushes them to this point?
  • Make it as tense and difficult as possible.

Cards 3, 4 and 5: escalation or Build

What series of events bring your character to solving their knot?

Card 6: The knot

  • Where is your character unfulfilled
  • What lessons do they need to learn?
  • What fears must they face?

Card 7: Initial State

Your character’s state of stasis and stagnation at the beginning.

CARD READINGS FOR ENRICHING PLOT

THREE CARDS FOR START OF SCENE

THREE CARD START OF SCENEThis spread is just a simple way to focus your scene before you start writing.  Shuffle your cards and lay three out from left to right and use them to answer the following questions:

  1. What does your character want right now?
  2. Why do they want it?
  3. What is standing in their way?

THE HORSESHOE OF FATE

This is a seven card spread, and can be used for specific elements of your plot, your major plot points, or an overview of your plot in it’s entirety.  Shuffle and spread the cards in a fan shape as indicatedThe Magic Horseshoe Spread for Plot

CARD 1: PAST INFLUENCES AFFECTING THE CURRENT PROBLEMS AND SITUATION

This can refer to the back story of the characters involved, what has happened in your piece up to this point, or what happened in or to your current setting.

CARD 2: OPTIONS & ALTERNATIVES

The choices available to your character to deal with or resolve the specific problem they face.

CARD 3: STABILITY OF THE SITUATION

I use this card firstly, to assess what is not going to change in the situation, and secondly, to look at external influences (other characters, setting, obstacles) which may impact the outcome of the situation, or make it more unstable.

CARD 4: CHALLENGES

What internal and external elements impede the character from concluding this situation in such a way they achieve their goal.

CARD 5: HELP OR HINDRANCES

Elements in the situation which help or hinder your main character to achieve their goal.  These could be:

  • Internal- your character’s faults and weaknesses
  • Other characters in the scene, or who could be included
  • Elements in the setting
  • Obstacles or complications in the setting, or the other characters

CARD 6: FRIENDS OR ADVERSARIES

  • Who they are
  • Does your character get betrayed, lied to, stolen from
  • If you know who they are, what else could they do to compound/ resolve the problem?

CARD 7: AFTERMATH

  • What is the state of affairs at the conclusion of the event?
  • What is the conclusion of the event itself?
  • What transpires as a result of the event’s conclusion? What happens next?

THE BASIC PLOT OUTLINE

Shuffle cards and lay out six at a diagonal, upward from left to right, as per the picture, the seventh card is placed beneath card 6.  Then, at the bottom, lay out four more cards in a straight line from left to right.

Card 1: Basic SituationBASIC SHORT STORY SPREAD

Your character in the normal world, before anything happens.

Card 2: Inciting Incident

What happens that makes everything different?

Your character may not know, but their world has changed

This incident is what sends your protagonist off in pursuit of their goal

Card 3: Conflict

Who and what prevents your character from reaching their goal?  Consider the following:

  • Conflict vs self
  • Conflict vs others
  • Conflict vs society
  • Conflict vs nature
  • Conflict vs machine
  • Conflict vs the supernatural

Card 4: Obstacles

What stands in your characters way? Or who?

Card 5: Problems/ Complications

  • Who complicates matters for your protagonist?
  • What elements of their personality cause problems?
  • What events increase the tension, make them doubt themselves, force them to change plans?

Card 6: Climax

The protagonist is in the final face off, the moment of truth, they now face the antagonist and themselves in a last stand

Resolution:

  • The new status quo
  • What has been accomplished
  • What has been learned
  • How have things changed

Card 8: main Characters

Your protagonist and antagonist

Card 9: other characters

Card 10: setting

  • Where does your piece take place?
  • What important objects are in the setting?

Card 11: Mood

What is the mood and atmosphere throughout?

THE TRY/ FAIL SPREAD

Lay one card in the middle, that is the centre of your circle.  Then encircle that card with a further ten cards as per the illustration.TRY FAIL CYCLE SPREAD

Card 1: Goal

What is your character;s goal for this mini plot?

Card 2: plan

How do they plan to achieve it?

Card 3: what stands in the way

Card 4: is there a temporary success?

Card 5: what goes wrong?

Card 6: what trait/ weakness causes your character to fail?

Card 7: How does the character learn to overcome this flaw?

Card 8: How do they react to failure?

Card 9: How does their failure raise the stakes?

Card 10: What motivates your character to try again?

Card 11: What is your character’s new goal?

SCENE AND SEQUEL SPREAD

This spread simply mirrors the basic structure of scenes, and in many ways resembles the try/ fail circle above.  Shuffle and lay out six cards from left to right in two rows of three.  The top row is your scene, and underneath, the sequel.Scene and Sequence Spread

  1. Goal: what the POVC wants at the beginning of the scene
  2. Conflict: obstacles preventing them from attaining it
  3. Disaster: failure to achieve goal
  4. Reaction to the disaster
  5. Dilemma: a situation with no good choices
  6. Conclusion: decision

I hope this fabulous and novel approach brings you as much fun as it did me.  As always, I appreciate your feedback.  There’s more on the way.

KEEP WRITING MADLY