Confused about your detailed backstory? Make a timeline!

Watching: Underbelly: The Golden Mile
Listening to: The Hero’s Two Journeys by Michael Hauge and Chris Vogler
Reading: Twitter (soooo addictive!)

As I was nearing the end of book #5, I again found myself getting confused with the character’s back story (i.e. all the stuff that happens off stage, the past events and people that affect characters).  I do this all the time – I give my characters complicated and deep pasts, which in turn helps immensely when it comes to writing goals and motivation.  But the downside is, they can get so in depth I kinda lose track of what happens.  And as this story is a flow-on from The Magnate’s Baby Promise, I had to keep going back to that first book and rechecking details – was my heroine 27 or 30?  How old was she when her parents ran off?  How long did she temp before scoring a full time job?  Where was she when… and so on.

click to see the full version!

After about the tenth time, I got fed up with my inability to retain these small but pertinent facts.  So instead of just writing it all down in a boring, unattractive list, being the visual learner I am I made a time line.  And here it is.  It’s very simple but easy to understand –  character’s names, then ages and their turning/plot points.   The long dotted lines means their timelines are in sync with each other.

I hope it will help some of you writers too because it really did save my sanity (and probably my editor’s, too!)  And I liked it so much I made another one for the current book I’m writing.

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5 comments on “Confused about your detailed backstory? Make a timeline!

  1. Hi Paula,
    I have an admission to make. Last night I was struggling with my hero and heroine’s goals. So, I dipped into some advice you gave several months ago on your blog about ‘core beliefs’.

    And now this timeline. It’s such a simple solution.

    Thanks Paula.

    Hey, this sounds like a testimonial.

    Best wishes for book 5,
    Shayne

  2. I’m so glad I can share, Shayne 😀 At the moment I’ve got my next book’s time line stuck up in front of my computer – it’s really un-confused me and got my writing back on track heaps of times!

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