Writing a Book: Characters

A few months ago I started writing my first ever book. So far the experience has been both enjoyable and exciting, but one element of book writing is harder for me than the rest: Keeping track of characters. I have problems remembering stuff and fictional stuff is even harder to remember, which is why I’m a terrible liar.

To help keep track of characters as the book progresses I came up with a “template” character profile. The template contains the information on a single character, which I copy to a separate note in the MacOS notes app for each character and password protect to save them from prying eyes. So far this system has worked well for me, but I imagine it would fall on its face if I wasn’t continuously updating each note as the book progresses.

I thought I would share the template I use to profile each character in case anybody else finds it useful. So here it is.

  • Name – An obvious one really…
  • Age – Again pretty obvious
  • Description – A description of a character is helpful, for example, homeless man or police officer.
  • Aliases – Characters aren’t always known by their full name. Bill instead of William for example.
  • Physical Appearance – I find it helpful to help visualisation of the characters I’m writing about to jot down what they look like. Hair style and colour, height, eye colour, build, etc.
  • Skills – Handy for reminding me of which character might be able to pick a lock, or cook beans.
  • Relationships – The relationships a character has to other characters is a valuable piece of information to know, even if the relationship isn’t mentioned once in the book. Knowing that two brothers had the same upbringing might help build in common traits.
  • Book Appearances – A list of chapters that the character appears in within the book is helpful for referencing back to previous chapters.
  • Book Mentions – I list of chapters that a character is mentioned in but doesn’t appear in.

As always, I’m always happy to take advice on ways to improve my work, so if any authors out there have any tips on managing characters consistently throughout a book they’d be greatly appreciated.

Dealing With Anxiety: Writing

In my quest to deal with anxiety I am always looking for distractions, complex problems to solve or escapes to take my mind out of reality for a while. I find having something to think about while walking or shopping helps me considerably.

After speaking to a friend who recently self published a book, I was motivated again to write a book. Writing a book has been a desire of mine now for years, but not knowing where to start or what to write about I haven’t bothered. 

So yesterday I started. I didn’t have a clue what the book was going to be about or the target audience when I started putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard as it was. Surprisingly, the first chapter just flowed onto the screen and the genre, target audience and first characters were decided. 

I still wasn’t sure about releasing the book though. That is until I asked my wife to read he first chapter, resulting in her crying by the end. I know she is obliged to not hurt my feelings but judging by her impatience to read the next chapter, I think she might be telling the truth when she says it’s good. 

The book, for anybody interested, is fictional and targeted at 12-15 year olds, which is the age of my eldest son.

Now I just need to find the time and motivation to finish the book, and hen decide if I want to self publish or approach a publishing house. 

Reading a Friend’s Book

Recently a colleague of mine published a short book which he mentioned in passing. I think he was angling for a review. Or maybe it’s a few quid out of my wallet he wanted via Amazon. Either way, the idea of reading a friend or colleagues book got me thinking.

What if I read the book and think it’s shit? Do I tell him to save him the time and energy of writing another book? Or do I spare his feelings and tell him I liked it regardless?

And then there’s the method of obtaining a copy of the book. He obviously has a printed copy of the book for himself. Can’t I just borrow that? That’s what friends and colleagues do with books isn’t it? Or am I expected to go and purchase the book from Amazon at full price to help a budding author on his way to fame? Then is the Kindle edition the right choice being more than half the cost of the paperback? Or will I be considered a cheap skate?

All of these things take time to process before making a decision of whether to read the damned book or not. Maybe I could write a short book about the thought process behind reading a friend’s book.

Did J.K. Rowling mention that she was writing a book about a wizard to friends and family in passing. Did she expect them to buy a copy of the book? Or to review it and tell her it’s shit? If she had, and they had, would one of the most iconic book series of modern society have ever hit the shelves? Would Daniel Radcliffe be on the dole? Would Emma Watson be lusted after by hundreds and thousands of men around the world?

The predicament goes on. Is it really fair to mention things like a book to friends and family and colleagues? Or am I being stupid?

In the end I borrowed the book using the Kindle Owners Lending Library I get access to through my Kindle and Amazon Prime subscription. Oh well Peter, I’m sure Amazon will give you something for the inconvenience. Sorry mate.

As it turns out I though the book was funny and well written and I enjoyed reading it. Although knowing the author is weird. It was almost as if a miniature Peter was in my head reading the book to me. That probably added to the witty nature of the book though. I may suggest an audio book…

If anybody fancies reading about the misfortune of the bloke who is married to a horse lover, the book is called So, The Other Half Wants a Horse… and can be “acquired” from Amazon here.

Novels: Read or Watch First?

I recently finished reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. The books already released anyway. Having never read any fantasy novels before I was blown aware by the first book, A Game of Thrones, which is of course also the title of the popular TV series based on the collection. I never imagined how immersive a fantasy novel could be and found myself reading for hours on end, completing the series of books in a few weeks between work and around family time.

The problem with finishing a good book, or series of books for that matter, is what to do next. Obviously there are still books to come out of the Song of Ice and Fire series yet, but I don’t want to wait for Mr Martin to pull his thumb out and finish them. Eventually I decided to start watching the TV series in the hope of filling the empty void the remaining books have left. I soon realised this was a huge mistake!

Now before all the Game of Thrones fans out there grab their pitch forks and torches and come searching for me in the quest for blood, let me explain. While I’m sure the TV series is wonderful from beginning to end, the characters and settings are nothing like the ones in my imagination. This totally spoils the experience for me. In fact, it spoiled the experience so much I had to stop watching midway through the first season so as not to squash my hunger for the new books in the series.

On the other side of the coin, however, I recently read The Hobbit after watching the movie. I found that since I’d seen the movie first I already knew what the director’s interpretation of characters and locations looked like, meaning the characters and scenes in the book were already formed in my head from the moment I started reading.

Unfortunately this order of consumption also has its problems though. Since I no longer required my imagination to form the world depicted in the text, and the events that take place during he adventures or Mr Baggins and friends, the overall reading experience isn’t as immersive as I think it could have been had I formed my own interpretations of the characters’ attributes. Then again the movie doesn’t contain nearly as much detail or dialogue as the books, leaving at least some ragged strands of meat on the bone for my imagination to pick at.

I don’t see a way to solve this dilemma of mine and I’d be interested in hearing suggestions from others. At the minute I think I’ll need to either read the book(s) or watch the movie or TV programme for each series, and not both.