Month: December 2012

Relationship Outlines

I searched high and low for a guideline for fiction writers to plot out the relationships between their characters and couldn’t find anything, so I created my own. Since this tool doesn’t seem to exist (or my googling skills are poor) I thought I’d share it so others might benefit. I find things like this enormously helpful when it comes to tricky parts in a story when I’m trying to figure out why two people are treating each other the way they are, how they might react in certain situations or how to move forward when their relationship is evolving. I also think it would be very useful when trying to define the relationship between a protagonist and an antagonist, especially if they know each other well. These would work best if you’ve already done individual chracter outlines.

Copy into the word processing document of your choice and fill in the blanks.

  • First Person’s name:
  • Second Person’s name:
  • Current status of their relationship (friends, enemies, siblings, lovers, etc):
  • Current feelings for each other:
  • What was the First Person’s first impression of the Second?:
  • What was the Second Person’s first impression of the First?:
  • Describe briefly their first meeting:
  • Have their first impressions changed since the first time they met? If so, how, and why?
  • How long have they known each other?:
  • How often do they see each other?:
  • Where do they usually meet? What do they do?:
  • Describe briefly a typical meeting or encounter:
  • How do they speak to each other? (tone, language, feeling):
  • Is their current relationship what the First Person wants? If not, what would they like to change?:
  • Is their current relationship what the Second Person wants? If not, what would they like to change?:
  • Does the First Person trust the Second? Why/why not?:
  • Does the Second Person trust the First? Why/Why not?:
  • What are some things they have in common?:
  • What are some things they are opposite about?:
  • What does the First Person like most about the Second?:
  • What does the First Person like least about the Second?:
  • What is the First Person’s favourite memory of the Second?:
  • What’s the most hurtful thing the First Person has done to the Second? How did it make each of them feel?:
  • What does the Second Person like most about the First?:
  • What does the Second Person like least about the First?:
  • What is the Second Person’s favourite memory of the First?:
  • What’s the most hurtful thing the Second Person has done to the First? How did it make each of them feel?:
  • What do they fight about?:
  • How do they resolve their arguments?:
  • What bonds them together? (common goal, mutual interest, etc):
  • If their relationship is not already a romantic one, is there the possibility of romance between the First Person and the Second?:
  • If so, why hasn’t it happened yet? What’s holding them back?:
  • If romantic, which one pursued the other? How did he/she do it? How long did it take?:
  • If romantic, how is their sex life? Do they both find it fulfilling? If not, why not, and what would they change?:
  • What will their relationship look like in five years?:
  • Is the intensity level of their feelings about each other the same, or does one like/dislike the other more?:
  • Describe the defining moment in their relationship:
  • Is there anything unusual or unconventional about their relationship?:
  • Are they honest with each other? If not, what are they dishonest about?:
  • Do they keep secrets from each other? If so, about what?:
  • Are either of them jealous of each other? If so, about what?:
  • Would the First Person die for the Second?:
  • Would the Second Person die for the First?:
  • How does the First Person think he/she has changed the Second?:
  • How does the Second Person think he/she has changed the First?:
  • What, if anything, does the First Person see of him/herself in the Second?:
  • What, if anything, does the Second Person see of him/herself in the First?:
  • What is the First Person blind about when it comes to the Second?:
  • What is the Second Person blind about when it comes to the First?:
  • What would it take for their relationship to become the opposite of what it is now? (ie: from lovers to exes, enemies to best friends):

If you find this as useful as I do, please let me know! I hope this writing exercise is helpful to other novelists out there who are trying to better define the relationships between their characters so that their writing can become more meaningful.


I’ve just put all this into a spreadsheet that people can download and fill out for themselves, if they’re so inclined. View and download relationship outline spreadsheet here. Feel free to share it with your other writer friends!

It’s The Most Busiest Time Of The Year…

December. You drive me crazy. The parties. The kids’ events. The shopping. The decorating. The wrapping. The visits with family. Birthmas. It’s a lot to take on, on top of the regular work and household stuff. I’m at the point now where I start bowing out of things I’ve committed to because I need what my three-year-old refers to as ‘lone time.’ I’m a person who very much values her lone time. So is he. Sometimes we have lone time together, the two of us cuddling in bed, and even though we’re not alone, it’s just fine with me. Both my kids have been getting lots of extra hugs over the weekend, like I’m sure most are.

The good news is with my lone time I’m making excellent progress on this latest rewrite. Another 3,000 words have been cut, mostly from the first three chapters. Tonight I’ve been further refining my first fifteen pages so I can send them for a critique from my city’s writer-in-residence. I’m excited but nervous for the feedback. I think some of the stuff I’ve changed works, some of it maybe doesn’t. My appointment isn’t until the new year, but I have to submit this week. I’ve also finished my character profiles, but have yet to do my relationship profiles. After I’m confident my fifteen pages are what I want to send off, that will be my next task. Then I’ll finish the rewrite.

I feel like after this draft is finished, I’ll start querying in earnest and see where that takes me. 2013 will be The Year of the Query! I’m not a new year’s resolutions person, but I’ll be setting some goals in January.

Until then, merry Christmas to everyone! May your holidays be filled with joy and good cheer.

Let’s Be Honest Here

I just ctl+A+deleted a big long whiny post about how I feel like I’m sabotaging myself and not living up to my potential blah blah blah.

Reservation for the Pity Party, table of one, come this way, please.

Then I read this comic by the Oatmeal.

And right after that, this post by the Bloggess.

And together, they showed me two things:

  1. I’m probably more awesome than I feel right now.
  2. It’s okay to not be brave, sometimes.

And also, maybe, that when life has you down, the universe will offer you a sign so you can pick yourself up again. So thanks, universe. Message received, loud and clear.

This is what’s going on repeat tonight:

Time to get back to work.

First-World Problems for Writers

Because we all have our little issues, don’t we?

  • 12-point font looks too big. 11-point font looks too small. Using 11.75-point font makes you a crazy person.
  • Having to listen to every Sleater-Kinney song in your iTunes library because you can’t remember which one reminded you of your main character.
  • Witty t-shirt about writers you found on etsy doesn’t come in your size.
  • You forgot to add tags to your latest blog post; it gets no comments.
  • One of your characters has a serious thing for tea. The next thing you know you have a cupboard full of loose leaf blends.
  • Your other writer friends are counting on you to get published first so they can use your agent.
  • Your cat threw up on your favourite writing blanket; now you must choose between smelling regurgitated Science Diet and cold feet.
  • You have to start keeping a sweater in the bathroom for the nights when you wake up with an idea and sneak out of the bedroom to tap it into your phone.
  • You can’t find an image for the writing quote you want to pin to your inspiration pinboard.
  • Just when you’re really getting into the zone, your kids’ 45 minutes at Ikea Smaland is up.

*all true of me in the last few weeks. life’s a bitch, hey?*

Character Studies

These have been on my list of things to do for awhile, like ever since I started thinking about writing. Funny that I’m only getting around to it now, after I’ve done three full edits of my novel, but better late than never… my plan is to complete them all and then do another pass-through for each character, keeping their traits and philosophies and motivations in mind. It’s funny, how all sorts of little details are coming forward while I’m writing these profiles. They were always things that were in the back of my head, vaguely affecting how my characters approached the world, but seeing them written down has set off a few lightbulbs in my mind. These new edits won’t be the major overhaul like what I’m doing now with the first four chapters, but I think all my characters will benefit from the new depth I’m discovering about them.

I’m using this as a kind of template for my profiles, and building off of those categories since each of them has very specific issues. I’m also going to do some very detailed relationship profiles for Callie-Dane and Callie-Matthieu. Right now I feel like while their relationships are very complex in my mind, they don’t always come across that way on the page. Having something to reference should help with that. Finally, I’m going to do one for the beginning of each book – the ones I’m writing now are like a snapshot of each character as the story begins. I’ll do new ones before I start writing each of the next two in earnest, as many things will have changed with respect to these people as their stories progress.

And now that NaNotQuiteANovel is over, I need a new goal for myself. By the New Year I’d like to have the 1-4 rewrite finished, plus all of the above. Fitting that in around all the holiday events and activities in my calendar (I’m feeling SO overscheduled right now, December is always a nightmare for this introvert) will be difficult but I think it’s manageable, as long as I can stay/start being motivated.

Good? Good.

NaNotQuiteANovel, Weeks 3-4

Success! I completed my 30 tasks. Here’s what I accomplished since my last post:

Nov 14 – Came up with a whole new opening premise for The Unravelling AND made an outline for it.
Nov 15 – Finished revised outline for chapters 1-5 AND started rewriting chapter 1.
Nov 16 – Continued rewriting chapter 1.
Nov 17 – Added more detail to revised outline AND started rewriting chapter 2.
Nov 18 – Outlined a bit of the end of book three, just for fun and because that’s where my head’s at right now.
Nov 19 – Zilch.
Nov 20 – Outline revision
Nov 21 – Nothing. Falling behind again.
Nov 22 – Sigh.
Nov 23 – Rewrote chapter 2 (counts for two, close to 4,000 words)
Nov 24 – Worked on chapter 2 some more AND wrote 1,800 words of a NEW BOOK AND made a really long but half-assed outline for it!
Nov 25 – Spent all damn day thinking about this new project. It counts.
Nov 26 – Added more to the outline for new story.
Nov 27 – Nothing.
Nov 28 – Added on to the outline for The Unseeing AND roughed out some more of book three.
Nov 29 – Pondered at length a giant plot hole AND began a character study for Callie.
Nov 30 – Finished Callie’s character study AND started Dane’s

Total tasks: 30 WINNER!

I’d say all told, even though I didn’t participate in NaNo the way it’s meant, the month was a success for me. And I actually wrote around 20,000 words, although only the 2,000ish I ended up with from the new book would count towards the goal if I was playing by the rules. But screw the rules! I feel good about my progress. NaNo is what you make it.

I’m giving myself a new set of challenges for next month which my next post will outline, but in the meantime, it’s Dressember! Time to bust out all my pretty frocks, which to be honest, are just an excuse to wear awesome tights. 😉