Why Your Writer's Bullet Journal Needs a Character Inventory

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I love updating my character inventory and keeping it all organiZed in my bullet journal. Having all my character lined out on the page gives me a nice sense of power, you know?

When I talk about inventory, my writer friends all go "what a GIANT waste of time" and then they immediately go and make the same mistakes over and over again.

That's what I DON'T want you to do. You need to look at your list and NOT make the mistakes that amateur authors make which is why YOU need to have a character inventory in your bullet journal!

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whyyouwritersbulletjournalneedsacharacterinventory

You Won't Repeat Character Names

When you have that one character name, it tends to stick in your head. And that's not a bad thing. I love finding a name and NEEDING to make a character to go with it. One of my favourite things is sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and make a character around a name that's been stuck in my head for the last few months.

While there are MANY authors who name their main characters the same name over and over and over again, they are far between. To me, it feels like a lack of creativity and like you've stopped exploring the rest of the world.

If you have that name that is sticking with you and you LOVE it, save it for a special character that you can give a series to. Because once you're done writing seven or so books, you're gonna hate typing out that crazy name after the fourteen billionth time.

And if you forget that you've made a character with that name, then you'll be able to catch it early, instead of later in the drafting sequence when your editor catches it. Or worse; when a fan on a forum does.

 

You Won't Have Names that Sound or Look Similar

When all the names are laid out in a list format, then you realize that having a "Haley" and a "Harry" in the same raiding party probably isn't the best move, and you'll be able to change the names early on.

Those similar sounding names might not seem like the worst thing in the world to you, the author. But your readers will go through and be so confused, they might not continue reading your book!

It also makes you look a bit lazy, like in example one. You need to diverisify even the sound of the names that you choose. Think about your readers reading it aloud or your poor narrator reading it for an audiobook.

If you can't work out who's talking, what's the point of moving on with the story

This is the beauty of having every single character laid out in front of you. The flaws and similarities between characters will be glaringly obvious.


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You Won't Make Characters that Have the Same Meyer's Briggs Personality Type Over and Over Again

I’ve talked about Meyer’s Briggs before and how it can really help you with making characters. Mostly it helps with their personality in over arching plot and in their motivations as your plotting is going down on paper.

But if you get stuck on the same personality type over and over and over again, it will mess up the balance of your story!

As an INTP myself, I can’t be with another INTP, someone HAS to break me out of my workflow and hyper focus on one project to go do a load of freakin’ laundry. Because I will sit there in my bullet journal all day if I was by myself.

In that same vein, your characters need someone to balance them out. You can’t have them all be the same personalities.

Another reason is, you DON’T want to get stuck in a rut with your writing. There’s nothing wrong with staying in your lane and doing what you’re good at. But there needs to be a break and we all need to try new things to stay teachable and inspired. It’s so important!

 

You Can See if your Book is becoming a Sausage Fest... or otherwise.

Sometimes even female authors can get caught in this trap. And it’s not a bad thing to have a mostly male cast, just like it’s not wrong to have a mostly female cast.

But let me tell you, when I changed my main character from a boy to a girl, suddenly it fixed a LOT of my problems!

So having that snapshot of your cast, seeing the ratios of boys to girls can tell you if there is a GAP that needs to be fixed and sometime that gap can be fixed with a little gender swap.

 

A Better Look at Your Race Diversity

Do I REALLY have to say any of this? 

Having proper race diversity in your books is SO important. As important as having diversity in our authorship.

I realize that it’s weird saying it as a white woman, but HONESTLY representing everyone equally is good. Because EVERYONE can be a badass, especially in fiction.

 

A Better Look at Your Sexual Diversity

Again, this is something I shouldn’t need to say.

But it’s a large complaint among people that their sexuality is under represented. 

And having someone who is gay in your book DOESN’T make you a Social Justice Warrior. 

All it does is let your readers know that you want to remain teachable about everyone and their struggles. It doesn’t have to be preachy, it just has to be equal.

 

You'll Be Able to Trim DOWN Your Cast or Add To It!

If there are redundancies in your cast or gaps, this will show you pretty closely what those are. If you feel like you need to add a character, check your character inventory first to see if there’s a character you can recycle. See... we are green here.

 

You’ll Have a Better Snapshot of the Age Range of your Characters

If you have a bunch of teenagers doing stupid things in high school, where is the teacher who is mentoring them? Where are there parents?

If you’re writing about a bunch of retirees, who is the young person hanging around keeping them young and teachable? Who are there kids?

These are the things you might not catch if you don’t take the step back that this Character Inventory technique affords you.

 

Setting Up Your Character Inventory in Your Writer’s Bullet Journal

Now, I have my bullet journal set up a little differently. I’ve done a YouTube video about it that you should go check out.

But basically, I have a Leuchturm1911 that I use for my every day bullet journaling. That’s where my monthlies and weeklies and dailies are. That’s where I do habit tracking and planning and taking notes. Basically, this notebook is volatile unless I deem the spread to be archivable.

When I want to archive a certain spread, it goes into one of the inserts into my Traveller’s Notebook. My Leuchtturm and my travellers notebooks are all dot grid. If you’re not a convert yet, my spreads may make you one. It’s nice to have because everything can be uniform and straight. But if that doesn’t matter to you, that’s completely fine. Do what you need to do!

Each of my book series has a separate notebook and then I have a Character Catalog notebook. It seems redundant, but it makes it easier for my brain. I can look at each book as a whole and I can look at my writing as a whole. If I see a gap in my own writing career, then I can make a character to experiment with. If I see a gap in just one book, I can insert a character to fit that role.

I divide each page in my Character Catalog into sections and I’ve used four pages in that catalog. Then I use the same format in my book notebooks, but I only need one or two pages in each of those sections.

writersbulletjournalcharacterinventory

Name: This is twelve cells across. That should be long enough for most names. If your character name is too long to fit here, you may want to shorten it! Unless the length of the name is cultural or if it’s a joke. Looking at you Albus Percival Wolfric Brian Dumbledore...

Series: This I made about 7 cells across, plenty of room to write the book name or series name that the character shows up in. You don’t have to put both the series and the book name in this cell, because this is really just a log for you and hopefully you know what series each book lands in.

Age: This I made 2 cells across, because we don’t need extensive room here.

Gender: I gave my chart two cells, but if you need more room, make it happen. No worries.

Meyer’s Briggs: I gave this column four cells because the Meyer’s Briggs identifiers are only four letters, so it should be plenty of space.

Now as you go along and you keep making more characters and book series, keep this updated. And keep comparing each and every character to your whole cast from all your books. It keeps me grounded and understanding how I write. And I think it will help you too!


Thanks so much for reading this blog post and sticking with me while I ran around and tried some new things. That project is still active, no worries! But so is this one!

And don’t forget...

#Preptober is coming.

Happy Writing!

Zoe Fleischer

The Ginger Wordsmith🐙