Writing Hacks – Using a Bulletin Board

Wednesday, May 03, 2017
One of the hardest parts of writing a book, in my opinion, is keeping track of the details. Specifically, I have a tough time with all the particulars for each of my characters. I’m a very visual person, so remembering every nuance about them is difficult without constant reminders.

When I’m developing my characters, I start by finding a picture of someone online who looks as I imagine each character to be. Seeing them “in the flesh,” so to speak, makes it simpler for me to describe them in my novels.

I also agonize over keeping the personality traits of my characters consistent. I want to make sure they react like themselves in every situation, but when I’m first getting to know them, that can be hard.

Over the years, I’ve tried different methods to help my tired brain. I keep a journal for each of my books, of course, but stopping to flip through it every few minutes becomes time consuming. I tried creating a Word document with each character’s picture and their particulars, but that still required me to toggle back and forth between my notes and my manuscript. I needed something big. Something bright. Something literally right in front of me.

So, I opted for an old-fashioned cork board.

My main characters are at the top. I make their pictures big and bright, so when I want to describe them, all I have to do is glance up for a reminder. Underneath, in big, bulleted lists, are their major personality traits: likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, and faults. When they need to react to a difficult situation, I look up at my board, scan their “vitals,” and write their reaction appropriately.

For those people who are visual, like me, this technique can be a life-saver. Since I’m a full-time teacher during the workday and a mother every other moment of the day, I currently lug the bulletin board from room-to-room, or wherever I can find a quiet spot. I have grand visions of the future, which includes a small, quiet office where my board is mounted to the wall. If you have that option already, I envy you. Either way, the board works well and has provided me with more writing time and less distractions.

In any case, if you’re a visual person, consider a cork board. It’s worked wonders for me. Plus, any time-saver for brings you one step closer to a completed manuscript.

Do you have a writing hack? I’d love to hear about it!

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Beth--I love the idea of cork board. I've done similar things as you have--a separate document with all the characters' particulars--but settled on some details in bullets at the beginning of the document, so at least I didn't have to toggle back and forth between two different documents. However, a cork board would be even better.

Thanks for the suggestion, and it DOES get easier, once your child(ren) get older... I promise.

Margo Dill said...

I love this idea too! I use a bulletin board for sayings and lists but never thought to use one for novel notes.

Unknown said...

Visually speaking, most of my characters are based on actors. I usually start a board on Pinterest, rather than a cork board, but same basic idea. 😁

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