Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fixing Character Errors

Unless you have only one reoccurring character in your novel there is a very good chance that somewhere you made a mistake where they are concerned. I have a few tricks I use to help me keep track of every character detail so I don't accidentally change an eye color, age, or something else. The first thing I do is start a notebook at the outlining stages of my novel. I jot down every main and supporting characters description, birth dates, any habits, catch phrases, or quirks of their personality. This helps reduce the amount of errors I have to look for when it comes time to edit.

Once the novel is finished I get a different colored highlighter for each of my reoccurring characters. I go through and highlight every time they appear in the novel, whether it is dialogue, action, or just an appearance. Then I cross reference with my description in my notebook and make sure I haven't made any mistakes. I almost always do.

After that I take note of how often a character showed up in the novel and what type of scene it was, tension, action, or development. Sometimes I find that I have to add scenes because I didn't develop an important character enough. Sometimes this reveals that a character is unnecessary and it results in having to cut them from the novel. The end result is not only stronger characters, but a stronger novel as well.
Whatever method you use, just be sure that you are checking your character details to make sure they stayed consistent throughout the novel. I once ended up with a character with two different colored eyes. It was not on purpose. Worse, I almost sent a partial of it out! Don't let this happen to you!


  1. This is such a good idea. I use the highlighter method and I had given my character totally different characteristics (different hair color, etc). A hot mess if I didn't check.

    For me especially writing in spurts and long periods of time, you can just forget.

    Good tip!

  2. Love the highlighting method. I keep an excel spreadsheet with all of my characters' details including common catch phrases, and any "quirks".

  3. Great advice, Heather. So far I've never changed characters' appearances by accident (whew), but I did change a secondary character's name (twice). . . oh, man, it's so easy to mess up.

  4. Heather, thanks for the great advice. I'm going to try this. I especially like identifying character lapses by your method of outlining them. Thank you!

  5. Great tips. I'm guilty of changing something on a character mid-way in the manuscript, then not going back and making all the changes.

  6. Karen, that's excellent, I didn't know you used the same trick! And yes, it's particularly helpful when writing in spurts.

    Tina, a spread sheet is a great idea!

    Linda, I've done that too!

    Karlene, you're welcome. I'm glad you like the method and hope it helps.

    Em, lol, oh yes, me too!

  7. Great advice! I needed this post, because sometimes I forget hair color and eye color and quirks.

  8. I heard a story about a writer who was horrified to discover the cover art for his book depicted his main character as a blonde, when it said plainly in the book that she had dark hair. (The error was corrected before the book went to print.) Sometimes illustrators need to go through an entire manuscript thoroughly too, to avoid mistakes like that!