Normally I don’t really do these. However, since I started writing outside of nano, I’ve found them to be enormously helpful. I know, big surprise.
Actually, even with nanowrimo I’ve found it incredibly helpful to take five minutes, and whip up a sketch that gives me the basics on a character. “Jim* the urban wizard is a short, stout guy, a dreamer, hates arguments, likes black & white movies, and has a thing for Smurf memorabilia” gives me enough of a picture so that when Stuff Happens, I can figure out how he’ll respond. It also just adds depth in general; to how I write him, how the other characters interact with him, etc.
Also a first for me, I’ve been doing plot sketches. Basically, when I can’t figure out a scene in my head (usually it’s like a movie playing, and I’m just writing it all down), I now write out a set of notes of what I think should happen. Somehow, seeing the details written out makes it easier to ‘know’ what happens next.
Here’s an example. Jim needs to do something magical & dangerous that’ll get him noticed as a wizard. I have no idea what, so I brainstorm with notes.
Scene 12B – Jim gets into a
fight wizard’s duel at the mall denny’s comic book store.
- Goes to get the latest issue of Rat Queens
- Runs into Wade, who hates him
- Wade grabs the last book
- Mad, Jim
calls him a losercasts a spell that makes Wade yelp
- Wade challenges him to a duel
- They fight – needs details!!!
- Neither of them manages to do any damage, and someone else walks off with the book.
Now I know a bit more of what I’m writing, and I might even have a bit of a picture in my head. Whenever I get lost, I can refer to it, and either fix it again, or get back on track. If I got to the actual fight, and still didn’t know what they do, I’d go back to the sketch and add more ideas as notes, until I figure it out.
*There is no Jim. Though this would make a fun story.