Jackie’s Little Checklist

Again, thousands of apologies for my lack of keeping this sorry excuse for a blog up to date. And also apologies for not doing my usual round of visits to other people’s blogs. I’ve been keeping my social media distractions to a mimimum for the purposes of pretending that I am an NYT #1 bestselling author with millions of readers waiting for my next book. I’m kind of doing a series you see and that’s a little risky for an unpublished author. So to minimise my risk, I’m pretending that I’m not unpublished. It’s working so far…except when I happen to catch glimpses of my bank account….

Aaaaaanyway, moving right along….

I think in my last post I mentioned a little checklist of things I need to keep in mind whenever I start a new story and some of you suggested that I post it. This of course meant I had to think about it and actually list some those things. It was a lot of work I tell ya.. 🙂 It is by no means complete – there will be other things I don’t know that I need to know to add – and also it is my list and designed to help me and my weaknesses when it comes to crafting a story. Some of the things on it you’ll probably think ‘WTF? She hasn’t got that yet?’. Other things may make you get down on your knees and worship my genius (I’m not imagining this will actually happen but dreams are free).

Okay, this is complicated and actually, I’m wondering if this mightn’t be better as a flow chart or mind map…yes, a freaking mind map!  But basically this checklist is a series of questions, since that’s what works best for me. They’re also all interelated which further complicates stuff.

1. Character: The most important part. Character should always come first IMHO.
Who is this person? How do they behave? What do they do when they’re under stress?  How do they act when they’re confronted or challenged?  What do they do when they’re happy? How do they see themselves? What do they want most? How do they handle emotion? What are their opinions about: friends? family? love? work?  What annoys them? What makes them happy?  What makes them afraid? What emotion are they most afraid of and why?
2. Conflict: What was the event/thing/person that changed the course of the character’s life?  What was the character like before it? How did the character change afterwards? Does the character think they changed in response or do they think it didn’t affect them? What story do they tell themselves about this event and is it what actually happened? What fear did the conflict plant in the character? And how does the character hide this fear? What does the character do to make themselves feel better about their fear/conflict? How does the conflict relate to the character’s view of love?

3. Goal: What does the character want? How does it relate to their internal conflict? Why is it important to them (conscious/unconscious)? How do they feel about it? What do they think it will give them? What are they prepared to do to achieve it? What lines will they not cross (and why)?

4. Motivation: Does the conflict affect the character’s motivation (hint: it should)? In what way? What emotion is driving the character’s motivation? Are they aware of it? If not, then what other reason do they give themselves for what drives them? Why do they deny the real reason?  

5. External conflict/set up: How does this relate to the internal conflict? Is the external goal reflective of the internal goal?

6. Character arc: I guess this should go up with character but what the hey! How does the character change? How is this reflective in their behaviour?  Who are they under the mask they wear to show the rest of the world? Why do they hide their true self? What do they discover about themselves that helps them overcome the problems of their conflict and drop their mask? How does the other character help them discover their potential? What is their true potential??

Now, I don’t hold this list up in front of my computer screen and tick off each little box, nor do I have to have all the answers up front (but at least an idea is a good plan).  It tends to happen in a much more organic way and depends on how the idea came to me at the time. If the conflict idea comes first, I think about who this thing might have happened to and why it would have been so terrible for them. From there the character starts to form in response to the conflict. Or sometimes I’ll have an idea for a character, then I’ll try and think about what could have happened to them to make them who they are.

No doubt there are more things I need to think about that I haven’t listed here and I’ll probably add to it. When it comes to discovering these things, I don’t do characters sheets or whatnot because I find them artificial and I end up with a robot, not an actual person. The best way for all this to come together is just good old-fashioned thinking about it. When I’m doing the washing. Or having a shower. Or yelling at the kids. 🙂 It works for the most part.

Anyway, that’s my checklist for you. It’s kind of random. I might see if I can mind-map this though it may be waaaay too complicated. Anything anyone else wants to add? 

Alternatively, if you don’t want to read this post, head over to the Sassies site and see some pictures of moody men. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Jackie’s Little Checklist”

  1. *Applause* Very comprehensive list, Jackie. Some questions that I forget to ask myself, for sure. The only other thing I’d add would be Turning Points. I know that’s probably embedded in Character/Goal, but I tend to jot them down separately so I know that I’ve got enough scattered throughout the story.

    Thanks for the list. I’ll be copy/pasting that into a doc to refer to when planning my next ms 🙂

  2. Madeline – Oh, yay, a comment! The silence was getting echoing. I thought everyone had taken one look at that and gone home. I probably went a little wild TBH.
    Oh, turning points are good too. I kind of have an idea about them but often I don’t exactly how they’ll pan out until I start writing. The joys of being a pantser I guess. 🙂

  3. Jackie!!! *waves* I’ve been “off-blog/Twittered-down” too. Bad Lacey. Have I missed any exciting news with you? Where are you submitted at the moment?

    I also want to know more about your series *pouts*

  4. Haha, I did wonder at the lack of comments! Strange for a very in-depth and valuable post, I thought. Glad to fill the silence! 🙂

  5. Lacey – Hey you!! I haven’t been on Twitter for a month at least so don’t feel bad! No, you’ve missed nothing vital. Subs at M&B, Samhain, and Entangled. No news anywhere! The usual story. I am expecting the rejections to flood in at any moment. Sigh.
    My series? It’s sort of Presentsish. But since the likelihood of it getting into print is slim to nil, it might have to go elsewhere.

    What about you???

    Madeline – awww, thank you! Yeah, I think it’s the first time ever I didn’t get a single comment for DAYS. I blame Twitter/Pinterest/Tumblr/Facebook/Apathy/General busyness. 🙂

  6. I missed your sub to Samhain! Fingers are crossed for it too. Where is sexy chess hero? Is he the Presents sub?

    I can understand wanting to take a social media break. I wish I was brave enough to take a more permanent one.

    I’m doing an awesome course at the moment and learning so much. I don’t want to sub again until after it, because I know I’ll discover I’ve done something wrong and want to change it lol.

    I’m sure your series will make it into print, and when it does I’m going to be all over it! Have you just started? Or are you on one of the sequels?

  7. Lacey – oh, you are awesome. You do make me feel good about my writing! 🙂 You didn’t hear about the Samhain sub because I didn’t tell anyone. I’m getting too scared to keep putting my Rs so I thought I just wouldn’t anymore. But now you know… Bah. 🙂

    Sometimes I have to take a social media break for my mental health. Not sure when I’ll go back to Twitter. One day.

    Sexy chess hero is languishing I’m afraid. I was going to sub him but since I finished it, I’ve learned a whole lot more and realise I could do it better. So I may rewrite him. Yes, again.

    Great plan re the course! Which one are you doing??

    My series? Sigh. Well, who knows. It’s very OTT. I’ve finished the first one (Mr Rough). Next is one of the sequels. Which I’m excited about I have to say. Hero has MAJOR conflict. Is that wrong that I’m so excited about how tortured he is?? 🙂

  8. I’m glad I didn’t miss your Samhain announcement 🙂 I thought I’d REALLY dropped the ball.

    Don’t feel bad about the Rs 🙂 Remember, published writers get those them too. The problem would be if you weren’t getting 😉
    “The only shame is in never trying”.

    Your series sounds fabulous! Love me a tortured hero 🙂 I’m indecently excited about your next WIP too. Send it to me when you’re done. Go on. You know you want to…. 😛

    I’m so, SO glad sexy chess hero is still around, even if he does need a bit of rewriting.

    Happy writing!

  9. Lacey – No, no ball dropping was made (sorry, that does NOT sound good does it??). Yes, that’s me. The little engine that could. Or could not as the case may be.
    Lol on the next WIP. Maybe I will. And then you can see for yourself how crazy I am to tackle this conflict.
    Ah yes, my poor chess hero. One day…

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