Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Playing Cleudo

By G.M. Malliet

This will be a shortish blog because I seem to have lost a character and I have to go look for him.

My work in progress has about a dozen key characters, and I feel like a mother cat with kittens. They keep wandering off. (Wasn't Winston supposed to be in the castle libary, dang it? But there he is in the sitting room talking with Tom. And where did I put Ninette?) Since they are all suspects, I have to keep track of where they are at any given moment. And where they tell the police they were.

Last night I realized I would have to come up with a schematic or floorplan of some kind, showing where each character is during the key hours leading up to the murder. I am beginning to wish I had taking a drafting course.

What I really think I need, though, is a dollhouse...then I could move the little figures about and take a photo of each new configuration in, say, half-hour increments.

How do you guys keep your timelines straight? Would some online site like Second Life help with this, do you think? Or software like Storyboard? I don't know much about how all that works. I just know I need to be able to visualize where all my "kittens" are.


Joe Moore said...

In the past, Lynn and I have used what we call a plotting matrix. It’s a basic MS Excel spreadsheet. Each column has the name of a character and each row is a name for a scene. Across every row we list what each character is doing during that timeframe. Even if a character is not in the scene, we know where they are and what they’re up to. Helps to keep track of the kids. Hope this helps.

Keith Raffel said...

Oh, you guys are so organized! Here's what I do. Just write the first draft -- get it done! -- and clean up the mess you've made in the second.

Mark Combes said...

I'm with Keith! If anyone dared read one of my first drafts, they would be hopelessly lost! Characters coming out of nowhere. Or worse, coming back to life without explanation!

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith and Mark - yes, that's where I'm at. I have a pretty solid draft *except* for the characters who insist on wandering around the castle instead of staying put where I left them.

Also, I need my policemen to discover one key piece of evidence sooner than I'd originally planned. The cut-and-paste feature in word processing is a godsend.

Joe - I do have a (very rough) timeline sketched out, but I keep thinking something visual or dimensional would help.

Felicia Donovan said...

I'm not much help here because I kind of free text it all the way. I catch some things on the first edit, but I leave it to my reader friends and particularly, my sharp-eyed agent to say, "Ahhh, you can't have her rise from the chair in indignation when she hasn't entered the room yet..."

Paul Lamb said...

My plots are not so complex that I can't pretty much picture where everyone is all of the time. I'm leery of timelines and such because I have found that sudden insertions or switches in sequence tend to help the story along. I might not have those revelations if I had an outline sitting on the table beside me. And as Mark and Keith stated, I clean up a lot of messes in the second draft.

Rick Bylina said...

I do something similar to what Joe has advocated, but only after the first draft and not so much detail. It also helps me keep track of characters that have disappeared from the story (accidentally or on purpose). Sometimes you need to keep a character in the reader's mind and if the gap is too long, your surprise re-introduction will be more like: "Who the hell is this guy?"

If EXCEL scares you, you can also do it in a table in MSWord.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I subscribe to the Raffel/Combes method. Half the time, I don't even know who the killer is until halfway through the thing. But I do keep a timeline on a computer printout of the month in which the story takes place.