Finetuning Character Traits

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I got most of the next editing phase done on Wednesday, thanks to my hubby gurgling and snoring his way through the night.  Here are the items I concentrated on during the wee hours.


I went through the first page of each chapter and made sure the timeline was absolutely correct. I did start out keeping a check on the days that elapsed, but my careful planning slipped away while I wrote the last few chapters of the book. I get neurotic when I get to this phase for fear that I’ll have a book in print in which some reader will find out that my days don’t add up correctly.  With this in mind, I made sure that if something was supposed to happen two hours, days or months after, then that’s exactly when it did. While I’m writing, I do this by inserting the day and week at the start of each chapter, but like I said, in the heat of storytelling my good intentions swoop out the window.

At this point, I may also rework chapter breaks based on what’s happening with the characters. What worked well together while the story was in progress sometimes doesn’t read as well when I analyze them months later. That’s when incidents and sometimes whole chapters get shifted around.


I know I wrote about this before, but I wanted to ensure I put the ladies’ mannerisms in throughout the story, particularly when the stress and tension escalated. I did fairly well in the early chapters, but the latter ones needed some help. 

Dionne twirls her hair when nervous and gets chest pains when stressed. To make her character ring true, I inserted a few more episodes so it was clear that she was under a lot of pressure.  I had her husband notice that she was in pain, so he’d also know things were not normal.

I made reference to one character’s tendency to say that things are never as bad as they seem, but somehow I neglected to ever have her say that during the entire novel. I still need to have these words come directly from Justine’s lips at least once. She reflects a lot on her life, so I need to ensure again that the pace doesn't drag too much in her chapters.

Kyra has minor weight issues that she thinks about up to midpoint in the book and then she never thinks about them again. Life doesn’t work like that, so this is something else I need to fix.  While she doesn’t lose weight, she does come to a point of acceptance of who she is, which works for her storyline.


Early in the book, I tried to keep the women’s tastes and special gifts in mind. To some extent, I have this covered. Dionne works hard and has an affair, but doesn’t do anything that she really enjoys.  I have to think of something, even if it’s watching television.  Not that that will work.  She’s too impatient to sit around staring at a screen, but I’ll think of something.  Kyra likes to cook and loves expensive clothes, shoes and perfume, so I think I’ve got her covered. Justine likes flowers and has a green thumb. I think I can get away with that.

One additional benefit I derive from this exercise is that I clarify my thought processes and figure out exactly what needs to be done to complete each novel. 

I’m still not done yet, because there are all these tiny sticky notes hanging out of the manuscript.  Each colour represents a character and the things I need to work on. I’ll know I’m done tinkering when every last one is removed.

After that, it will be time to print out the story again and read it as a whole.


  1. Super post! One thing I've been doing is keeping notes on my characters. I go back through them before I start a scene with them in it.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog today. :)

  2. No problem, Sharon. I could take a tip from you. Always good to refresh before going forward.

  3. I reckon since Dionne is such a restless type, then she should be a runner.

    Or failing that maybe she could be dancer. It might be something that she and Clayton used to do and then Clayton slowly pulled away from that hobby, so now she gets out the joggers each morning and runs like a madwoman, trying to outrun the situation she finds herself in.

    Just a thought,


  4. Diana,

    I like that. I like the idea of trying to outrun her problems very much. It'll take a bit of work to insert that throughout, but anything for a better story!

  5. Great post as always, Joy! Great reminder, too, to make sure the character traits we've worked so hard to develop early on carry consistently throughout the story.

  6. Definitely wanted to keep the consistency going. Still have a ways to go. Thanks for stopping in, Cat.

  7. Great's always a long process to edit. it's nice to see how someone else does it.

  8. I enjoyed this post, Joy, I love seeing how other writers do things. Good luck with your editing!

  9. Thanks for stopping in, Linda. I too like to know how other writers work.

  10. Thanks, Alanna,

    I'm dragging a little on this project now. Need to get the momentum going again.

  11. Excellent post. I put the day of the week in red after each chapter heading so I can keep things straight for me. I like the way you go back and repeat mannerisms. I keep forgetting how important a small detail can be, I'm jotting down a note for my revisions as soon as I complete this very rough draft.
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting today. I love your blog and really enjoy meeting other writers.

  12. Thanks, Catherine, for sharing what works for you. I have a hodge-podge of methods that I've collected over the years. I too enjoy meeting other writers.


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