Tuesday, August 30, 2011


by Tara Nina

As an author, I tend to simply sit and write without thought to direction. I admit to being a ‘pantser’, which some think is a misguided way to write. In fact, it’s not. To me it’s easier than plotting everything out and trying to maintain that course in the story. I find my characters have ideas concerning their actions, choices, plot, and of course love life. It’s not up to me to force them into a mold, but to listen to their story as told in their voice.

Sounds nuts doesn’t it?

It can be when these ideas rush forth and the fingers press the keys in a flurry of letters, words and sentences. Character descriptions, minor details, and assorted other items important in keeping the story straight can be confused or accidentally changed without intentional thought.

Over the years of conference attendance, I’ve listen to some of the leaders in the world of romance speak about many things. Keeping the details straight was a key factor in some of the workshops. When asked how they did it, they use storyboards set up in their offices. Nice idea. But for the rest of us who don’t have the space or luxury of an office, there is a simpler way.

In this age of computers, it’s easy to keep these things organized if one takes a moment at the beginning of each manuscript to create a file labeled: Character Traits and Important Story Facts. When a character is created, list their name, job, talent, location, and every minute physical trait: hair color, eye color, body build, flaws, etc. This helps when you’re halfway through the book and realize you’ve forgotten the color of their eyes or how you spelled the last name.

I even keep a running timeline in this file. So many times, I’ve gotten into the writing that I’ve forgotten how many days have gone by in the story. It helps keep the story flowing when you can keep the minute details straight. Readers pick up on these things. And some of them make it their job to inform an author of a mistake. Don’t let this happen to you.

If you find creating a Fact File on your computer as you write a bit confusing, then try using a notebook. Keep it beside you as you create and jot down notes that will help keep the facts straight.

I find that as I get older, every little ‘memory’ trick I can use is helpful in my efforts to write. Characters speak and I listen. Stories unfold and flourish. But it’s the details that get forgotten along the way.

Tara Nina writes hot romances with sexy attitude in the paranormal, contemporary and erotica genres. Her latest book, CURSED LAIRD, is available from Ellora's Cave.  Visit her at http://www.taranina.com/.


  1. I'm a pantser too. I like to listen to my characters and let them lead me on their journey.

    I have several templates I've created to help me with my books, such as calendars, character information, word count, etc. I get so involved with my characters, that record keeping really helps me keep on focus.

    Great topic, Tara!


  2. I am definitely a pantser, but I honestly think the story develops more naturally when you write that way.
    I keep spreadsheets for my big stuff. If I have several characters, I list them and all their pertinent characteristics right on one large sheet that I don't have to flip though. A friend of mine said that you can do a version of a whiteboard with colored post-its for characters right on the computer, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.
    And keep pantsing! If it works for you, it's good.

  3. I'm a hybrid pantser/plotter—I like to just write, especially when I'm starting a new story, but I also do a lot of outlining and planning, etc. I draw maps and charts and make lists of details I have to remember. (I carry around a little notebook mostly for this purpose. It's also a good place to jot down fly-by ideas.)

  4. Great comments. It's wonderful to hear everyone's ideas and that I'm not alone in the pantser's world. LOL

  5. I blogged about the same thing in August but no one seemed to care enough to comment.