Keeping Up With Your Characters' Descriptions

When you read a book, do you ever struggle to keep up with the characters' descriptions? For example, a character with blue eyes suddenly has green or brown eyes? Or their hair color changes or they're shorter than before. Keeping up with how your characters look and behave can be a challenge for a writer in the process of writing a book. It can get really confusing in a series.

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This past week, I've been reading through the ARC (advanced reader copy) of book 1, working on edits in book 3, and trying to figure out something that needs to be adjusted in book 2. Confusing? Absolutely.

That's why I have a spreadsheet that tracks the physical characteristics, mannerisms, and family connections of my characters. Many writers keep something like this; they call it their book bible.

THE WATCHERS OF MONIAH series is epic fantasy. Epic means it's a large scale story, dealing with many kingdoms and their people. That means a large list of characters. Before you panic, I don't have anywhere as many characters as George RR Martin or Robert Jordan, but there are quite a few.

Not that you care, but I have a BA in Zoology with a Life Sciences minor (the BA allowed me to have a minor). I understand genetics, especially when it comes to whether someone is dark or light, blue-eyed or brown-eyed, short or tall. Sometime ago, it hit me that my characters did not fit their genetic ancestry. I could have said that genetics worked differently in this world--I created it, after all. I chose to not mess with that too much. I wanted the characters to be relatable, especially to people who don't typically appear in books.

When you change something, you have to change it everywhere. Thank goodness for the Find and Replace feature in Word! It caught most of them, but it's harder to find instances of eye color or hair color than you might think.

The best way to keep track of this is to create a database. I know that doesn't align with the imaginative side of writing, but it's essential. Otherwise, someone is going to pick up my books and tell me in book 3 that I got something wrong about a character from book 1. FYI, that will probably happen. It's the way of things, but my launch team and I did try to find every single point that needed correction.

Have you ever found a shift in a character's description in a book? What was it and how did you feel about the change?

THE WATCHERS OF MONIAH will be available for purchase on Dec. 18. I will have a virtual pre-launch on Dec. 15 at 6pm. As soon as I have more details, I'll share that here (subscribe option on this page), in my newsletter, and on my Facebook page. Make sure you subscribe and follow these outlets so you don't miss out!


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