Worderella’s How to Make a Character Map

Dear Reader,

After giving you a taste of Haunting Miss Trentwood, I thought it would be nice if I showed you one of the many ways I keep track of who I’m writing about, how they relate to one another, etc.

I love pen and paper, and could probably buy out any office supply store in the blink of an eye (that is, if I had unlimited funds, which, thankfully, I do not).

That said, I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to hear that I adore Post-it notes. The image in this post shows how I visualize the love triangle(s) from Haunting Miss Trentwood. I would make the image bigger but then it might spoil some of the plot twists!

You see, dear Reader, this is a sort of map for me. I use this to remind me where tensions occur between characters. I’m color code so I know which character is part of which plot or subplot, and then I draw arrows with visuals to tell me the generics about the relationships.

I was thrilled to read Deanna Raybourn’s blog when she said she does something similar: a collage of images that help inspire her current work-in-progress. I love learning other types of writing exercises that don’t—shock!—require you to write. I need to make things because I am a Maker. I need to use my hands while I’m figuring something out, even something as cerebral as a plot twist. And then after I’ve made the thing, I want to share how I did it. Like this.

How to make a Character Map

  1. Have a crummy day at work.
  2. Have an awesome conversation on Facebook.
  3. Grab a tabloid-sized sheet of paper, multiple colors of small sticky notes, a pen, and a pencil.
  4. Write the names of the main characters on different colors of the sticky notes. Try to group the characters based on their primary plot lines.
  5. Play around with the configuration of the character sticky notes on the page until you can get them to fit, and represent the relationships.
  6. Draw arrows from one sticky note to the other to show direct connections.
    • Use dotted lines to show indirect connections.
  7. Use a pencil because you might make a mistake and try to draw one arrow over another.
  8. To keep the character map legible, try to arrange the stick notes so you won’t have to cross arrows.
  9. Have fun with it! I drew a funny angry face to show antagonists, hearts to show love interests, and broken hearts to show tragedy.
  10. Put the character map somewhere you can glance at when you need inspiration.

I had so much fun with this, I might do it for the relationships I have in my life, and use it as a sort of art piece in my apartment. Or as a way for me to remember who is who at work. Learning the organizational scheme of a new workplace is always so stressful…

All the best,



Sargent artwork by Organicdesigns I am an alpha personality: I live by lists, I like things ordered a certain way, I like to be in charge, I like to be on time. So you would think I use storyboarding to plot my novels, right?

Wrong! This past weekend was the first time I ever attempted a storyboard. And let me tell you: It was wonderful. I started out by drawing a line across an 11 x 24 sheet of paper for a timeline. I’ve always loved timelines, so it made sense for me to do it this way. Plus, my story has a backstory spanning ten years.

Then, I began writing major plot points onto post-it notes, sideways. This way, I could write multiple points on a single post-it, cut the post-it apart, and stick the post-it piece where I wanted. The backstory managed to fit on one page, as the image suggests.

The main year of my story covers two pages, as seen here, and here. The second page is where everything gets thrown at my main character… you can tell because the post-its are packed together and there are multiple dots of color everywhere. The last page, the conclusion of the story, is understandably less. I span my conclusion out over a couple months.

So what are the dots, you ask? The dots of color stand for each character that has their own complete subplot/story arc. I created a legend to help.

But why create a storyboard, Belinda? Your WIP meter says you’re 57% complete! Yes, well… that was true about a month ago, when the muse was flowing. Then I started writing a scene where I realized I didn’t know why the characters were arguing, just that they were. I freaked out, shut the file, walked away from the computer. I started reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and found my manuscript riddled with weak writing. As I started applying the rules, the heart of my story shone. A lot of little things happen where it helps me to know the month, so I started thinking of a timeline. And since I finished the storyboard, the muse returned. I even have my ending drafted, something sweet yet not cavity-inducing; I’m pretty pleased.

* Image by Organic Designs