This post is a bit late, and being written late… I had a number of things come up and my usual efforts to be on top of things fell to the wayside! While brainstorming with Tara, I thought about introducing you to the story we’re writing together through post-by-post role-play, but then I thought I’d show you some of the behind-the-scenes work that we do aside from writing! My work with Tara is featured here simply because we were chatting at the time! I do the same sort of work with Gypsy and on my own novels!
So without further ado, here are the behind the scenes, in no particular order:
For the most part, each of our main characters was given a brief bio, while some of our side characters (parents, and random encounters) aren’t given on simply because we don’t think to do it. I found having a short bio written for them, even just the basics, gives me an idea of who they were when I started. This was important as for a while Tara and I took several lengthy breaks between writing and having some notes to look back on really helped! Of course, these short bios aren’t the only notes we keep on our characters, as story happens and new details emerge and characters grow we keep track of those in our own ways for me it’s OneNote which I’ll cover later. These little bios just got us started! As an example, here is my main character Rémy:
Name: Rémy Rapin
Age: 22 (Birthday June/1879)
Personality: Rémy is outgoing. He has a vibrant personality and is quick to make friends. He’s smart without studying, the sort that irritates people because he manages to walk away with good grades despite looking like he never tries. Rémy attends school but doesn’t take it seriously, his grades keep in him school but he teeters on not caring at all. He’d rather go out dancing and have a good time. Rémy is open to people but simply because he doesn’t care to be bothered one way or another when it comes to taking the effort to judge someone. Rémy loves teasing his youngest brother because Thibaut is easy to tease and he likes to drag Jules into things. Rémy rarely worries about things, and just assumes Jules has everything under control and if Jules needs help he’ll ask.
Skills and Hobbies: Intelligent, enjoys playing cards, dancing and baseball, likes the theater (comedies), plays the fiddle
Occupation: Student and helps out in the family store.
Family and Background: Mr. Rapin has owned a family operated business that he inherited from his father, selling imported goods from Europe. He and his family live above the store, when Mr. Rapin passed away his sons were left to manage the store. Jules is the eldest, Remy the second eldest and Thibaut the youngest. Mr. Rapin is American, Mrs. Rapin is French coming to America to live with her husband, and they met in France. Mrs. Rapin’s sister is Blanche’s mother. Blanche is the cousin of Jules, Rémy and Thibaut.
One thing we love to do is keep photos that inspire us. We have a few shared Pinterest boards dedicated to our characters. For a character we try to find an actor to represent them so often our Pinterest boards are filled with those actors. Personally, I also have a board that I pin historical New York city photos too, as we story is set in NYC 1900s. Gypsy and I have similar boards shared together for our own work-in-progress. Pinterest boards are a great way to get a collage of photos that inspire you for your work!
Of course, GIFs are great too, especially to watch certain facial expression in action! It helps when describing what a character is doing not just saying it but showing it through your words. We have a certain GIF for Rémy that we quite enjoy, and Silas! These two GIFs really sum up their characters too. Here are Silas and Rémy in moving glory!
Character height charts
Another great thing for character creation and help to remind you is to create height charts! We so often talk about height in terms of “she looked up at him” “standing on her tiptoes” but sometimes we forget just what the height difference is and if it’s important in a scene (which sometimes it is)! I found having a height chart of some of our main characters to be helpful to glance out and really remind myself where someone stands in height compared to someone else.
Music! Tara has written about music and writing before, and of course music is a great way to help inspire you or get you in the mood. We have playlists for several of our characters (mostly our main ones, Rémy and Viola). I don’t have access to Viola’s, because it’s Tara’s but in the same way she doesn’t have access to Rémy’s but we could change that. We do share songs back and forth and help each other find songs for our characters by suggesting ones we find that we think fit. We struggled for a bit with finding songs but I think know we’ve got some great playlists. Here is one that we fell really sums up our two main characters and if we had to give our story a theme song, this might be it.
For me, I like to map out family trees. Even if not all the family members are in the story, or even get mentioned! I like it because it helps me grow the person’s character, knowing more about where he came from, giving names to relatives just seems to make them all that more real in my mind. And family trees are useful for characters with large families, complicated families, and stories were such details come into play! Below is Rémy’s family tree. Active in the story are his mother Corinne, Rémy and his brothers (Jules and Thibaut), and their cousin (Blanche) who is staying with them.
Maps & Floor plans
Maps and floor plans are really helpful if you’re writing in an area or space you’re unfamiliar with. In general, we don’t often refer to a map of NYC, however for my writing with Gypsy I have plotted out in an old map (1899) of NYC where all the places our characters go are, and we keep track of where they are when they are outside of the city. And I have a rough idea of where the Rapin’s live in NYC. We also figured out what small little country town Viola lives in, but one thing we found we needed at one point, as a lot of our story takes places there, was a rough floor plan of the Rapin’s shop and home. This is really important in co-authored works, I think, as you want both people to be on the same pace as to the layout of the space! This is a rough sketch of what we came up with!
*Note: there is no historical accuracy to this, it’s a little two story house with a shop on the ground floor and we designed the lay out based on we had already written and for future writing to avoid confusion, its layout mostly designed for our convenience in the story.
Character notes are super important, because I’m really forgetful. Even with notes I still forget things and it probably don’t help that my notes are often unorganized. I use OneNote. I like that I can have a notebook for individual projects, and then each notebook has tabs, and each tab can have pages. So, I have a tab for every character in my role-play notebook! This is a look at Jules tab, and you can see he’s got two pages. I usually dump the character’s bio, photograph, and other random things in to my notes. Random things often include conversation I have with Tara about the characters or plot ideas, and sometimes I put in bits of dialogue I think of and want to remember. I often put in random links to thinks that relate to the character or time period in some way (we aim for some historical accuracy while not letting it weigh us down at this part, we’ll correct things and re-write later in the editing process and so sometimes it’s just a matter of making note or saving links to historical questions we have). Often times I keep track of the timeline of events too in OneNote, though for my story I’m writing with Gypsy we use a Google Doc and keep track of our lengthy timeline there. So, OneNote is just a dumping ground of notes and things to remember, good thing there is a search function!
And there you have it! A bit of the behind the scenes of our creative writing (specifically RP), everything listed here I tend to do as well with my own novels. I also create plots in OneNote for my own novels (and on paper), plotting RP is usually done but it’s open and vague to allow for the characters react as they please when someone throws in something unexpected!
Is there anything you do that is similar, or the same? Maybe something you do that I haven’t listed? Let me know what your behind the scenes looks like for your writing!
Until next time,