Outlining Individual Character Arcs in Your Writers Bullet Journal

So, I’m a Pantser and I’ll stick to that as long as I’m writing. I think that planners are the amazing people who sit down and write a scene by scene, shot by shot outline of their book.

I can’t do that, it takes all the magic out of writing for me. 

But what do I do after my first draft is done?  Those are NEVER pretty?

I use a lot of Planner Techniques. 

I need to write an ebook about planning post first draft as a pantser... You guys want that? Let me know in the comments down below! 

One of the techniques I use is outlining character arcs and I love using my bullet journal for EVERYTHING writing related. 

No shit, Zoe. That’s what your whole blog is about. That’s why I’m here. But you want me to fill MORE pages of my journal with MORE character details? 

Yes, yes. I do. And here’s how! 

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Look over your first draft and make a list.

This sounds like a lot of work, but you need to start looking at your characters as individuals. 

Think about your favorite character.  Mine is Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

I highly recommend you go check out that whole series, and I’ll link it down below, because it is SO good. 

These ARE affiliate links and I get a small commission from the sale on amazon at no extra cost to you. So if you use this link, thank you so much for helping me keep the blog running!

Back to Granny Weatherwax!

When we first meet her in the book “Equal Rites” she’s mostly just a crotchety old woman who helps a little girl fulfill her  destiny. But we know that there’s more to this character.

After showing up in I don’t know how many books, we find out so much about Granny’s amazing life. 

And the last book that Pratchett wrote was about Granny and the end of her life. 

And I cried the WHOLE TIME I read it. My husband was very confused, but he kept bringing be Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked, so there’s that. 

If you DON’T think that Sir Pratchett had all of this lined out in his head from the get go (or on paper, either way), you would be CRAZY.  

Sir Pratchett was the most brilliant mind on the planet and his books are still the best thing ever. But if you think he didn’t write shit down every once in a while, you are CRAZY. 

Same with J.K. Rowling! 

Same with Dickens! (don’t like Dickens... but whatever...🍵) 

They all know where their characters have been, are, and where they are going.

So... start tracking it. 

Make a list of each event in the book that happen in order. Don’t do a timeline if you don’t need to, just make a list. 

Go back to your profile sheet and make a list of events that happened to the character previously. 

Yes, you really do have to do this. 

Think about your own life. You CANNOT tell me that things that have happened in your past don’t effect your decisions in the future.

Your characters have a past and it effects their future. Your characters are real people,or at least they should feel like they are real.  

Read it over

Yeah. Take out your manuscript and read it over s few times, taking note of all the major events your character goes through in your book.  

I wouldn't do this in your Writer's Bullet Journal yet, as we are several steps away from the final draft.  

 If you want to be SUPER organized about it, you can take the landmarks from the whole manuscript and correspond them to the events in your Character arc.

But only do it if you feel like you're going to get lost if this information isn't down on paper. 

Fill the plot holes 

Now you have your whole character arc down on paper, look to see if there are any holes. 

But now the fuck do I know if there are any holes? 

 You ARE impatient today aren't you? I got you, don't worry babe...

Ways to tell if your character arc has plot holes!  

1) They make a decision that isn't part of the meta for your story.  

You'll be able to see this quite easily, even without doing any of this other work.

If your character is in a heist and they stop for a while to study musical theatre and they don't need to for the heist plan to work, they probably are a little off track and you should save the musical theatre sub-plot for a different story. 

These decisions can enforce the reader's interest in the character, but only if the decision reinforces something larger in the plot.

2) The character is being dragged along by the plot without any agency or stakes.

When you have that friend that's just along for the ride and the don't make any decisions EVER and just act like a doormat, it’s not very fun to take that friend along on adventures, is it?
 
Same goee for your characters! If they aren't making decisions or reacting to the story, they feel rather FLAT. And we can not have that! 
 
Same goes for stakes! If your character isn't risking anything by being part of the story or not being part of the story, then why the fuck are they there? 
 
Finding those magical little spots to up the stakes for your readers and your characters is a sure way to keep the pages turning! 
 

3) There's a large gap between cause and effect. Sometimes we need to REACT. 

When we make a decision, sometimes there isn't just one consequence. Getting everything laid out in front of your eyes will allow you to see the whole of your story will allow you to add those perfect little reactions.   

And sometimes subplots or subquests. 😉 

So now that you have that in, go through and fill plot holes, comparing between your landmarks spread or your manuscript and your character src plans. 

 
Do a Landmarks Spread in Your Writers Bullet Journal
Okay! You've done the hard work! Well done! Time to get it all looking pretty!
 
I use the Landmarks in the Sahara technique, which is used by Wes Chu. But you can outline it HOWEVER you like.  
 
Landmarks are just my personal favourite. 
 
Each major event has a bullet next to it like it's a to-do item in my bullet journal. And then it gets ticked off when I get it ironed out in my manuscript.

Make a To-Do List and Get The Fuck to Work

Once you've done all the above steps with ONE character, it'll be like potato chips! You can't have just one! 

So sit down and do it for all your characters, and make sure you make a to-do list so you don't miss one!

The next to-do list you need to make is a chronological list of markers or events or scenes that need to be added to your story from all your characters.  

WARNING!: THIS WILL LOOK INTIMIDATING!!! 

But as you check off each thing you need to add, your sense of accomplishment will grow and grow! Like the completed section of your to-do list! 

 

Let me know in the comments below if you want me to write an ebook about outlining post first draft and how I keep it all straight in my head.

If you don’t give a flying rats ass about if I write an ebook, what’s your favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor? Mine’s Half Baked, like I said above. 

Happy Writing! 

Zoe

The Ginger Wordsmith