I have a major issue with people’s names. I mean that I forget them very easily, sometimes within five seconds of being told. Nope, not kidding. And as I work as an receptionist, it’s very embarrassing! But I deal with it at work by writing down the name of every person who phones in (and what line they’re on), to save me from those goldfish moments.
Believe it or not, I can forget even my main characters’ names, even after years of living with them in my head. Especially surnames. So I deal with it in my writing by having a character list, with people in basic relationship groups, with personality quirks noted. It’s just like the character list in the front of a complex book, except more personalized for my use.
It saved me a lot of time and energy searching through my manuscript trying to recall Carly’s doctor’s name (used in only a few sections of Facing Up). And it can help move plotlines along or show up errors, like using character names that are too similar (Carly and her best friend Carla would not have worked!).
And of course I have to note down ideas and lines ASAP otherwise they leave my brain faster than water through a sieve. I have a notebook (as in the old-fashioned paper kind) on my bedside table for the midnight moments of inspiration. Plus there’s a document on my laptop desktop to type in quick notes.
Yeah, you’re right, I don’t do the fancy technology stuff! But simple works for me, so go with what works, don’t make it any harder for yourself. After all, Game of Thrones author George RR Martin apparently still writes on Word Star 4.0, a program that’s extinct!
To take it to a different level, the above link recommends a program for authors called Scrivener (see their wonderfully named ‘Literature and Latte’ website!), designed to help authors keep track of what they’re doing. In an attempt to get a little more organised, I’ve downloaded their free trial today, and haven’t had a chance to look at it properly, but I’ve heard good things.
There’s another program called Aeon Timeline that works in with Scrivener, as no matter how good your memory is, there’s something to be said in having the integral parts of your work filed away, ready to be checked at a moment’s notice so that you’re not holding up the creative process while trying to recall what day your character left in a huff so that she’s not accidentally getting home two days later (unless of course she’s like Carly who does just that!).
I’ve just recently finished reading The Luminaries, and I have to wonder if Eleanor Catton used this tool – it was such an intricate plot of many characters and timelines! Perhaps they can invent a program to help the reader keep track, if that reader has a five-second memory span…
So there’s no need to be embarrassed if this happens to you (and I believe I’m not alone), just deal with it in a simple way and move that plotline along, with that main character, Allie… or was it Ally, or Ali?
I’d better get Scrivener underway 🙂