Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday Writing Wisdom: Plotting Multiple Character Arcs

So, I think Wednesdays will be a good day for writing posts. Alliteration and all that, amirite? Plus, writing is the reason I have this blog, so I should probably talk about it once in a while.

These days, I’m revising my novel, which is told from the point of view of three characters. I don’t want to get into how to do all the POV switching successfully, partly because I’m still figuring that out (although I can talk about the figuring-out process), and partly because that’s a much longer blog post than I have time for right now. Maybe we can get into it after I finish this draft and pass it on to my Beta readers.

I want to talk abut plotting all those character arcs, because if plotting one is hard, plotting three is HOLY MELTING BRAIN, WHAT HAVE I DONE?! It’s a lot. Like, A LOT, a lot. It’s a lot to juggle around inside one brain.

So I take it out of my brain, and I put it down on paper. I like to do this after I’ve finished one draft, because then I have something I can really work with. (And my rough drafts are rough and messy and all-over-the-place awful, and they have my permission to be this way. So I expect to need to do this at this stage.)

So, I have my first (ROUGH) draft in front of me. I've printed it out, because that's how my brain works, but that isn't necessarily a must. I get a stack of index cards, and I go through the draft and make one index card for each scene - whose POV it’s from, the central conflict of that scene, and the progression that character makes in that scene - then I lay them all out in order. (The floor is a good place for this.) Then I pull out three highlighters - one for each of my three main characters - and I put a stripe across each card in the color of the person whose POV that scene is told from. If the main part of the action centers around a character other than the narrator for that scene, I put an additional stripe in that character’s color, but that doesn’t happen that often in this book (so far; this may change. Actually, I think I want to play with that idea... *makes note to self and files it away for later*).

ANYWAY, now I’ve got the whole novel spread out in front of me, and I’ve got nice bright highlighted sections to let me know when stuff is happening for each character. It’s really obvious if I’m ignoring a character for too long, or if one character’s climax comes at the wrong time within the novel’s progression. It’s a good way to pull back and get a big-picture look at what’s going on for each character as the novel progresses.

So, that’s one of my strategies. I hope some of you find it useful.

How about you? How do you plot multiple character arcs? Leave your tips and tricks in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by.


  1. I did something similar using different coloured sticky notes. It really helped to be able to physically pick them up and move them around while I was plotting.

    1. Yes! I like that aspect of index cards, as well. It's good to be able to experiment with putting scenes at different points in the narrative, and see how that could improve the story (or not!).