I recently posted this on Word Painters, and thought I'd share it with my readers here as well (though, if you're a writer, I highly recommend you start following Word Painters!)
I write what's considered a "pantster" writing style. You know, "fly by the seat of your pants." Writing before you have it all outlined. Thinking up plotlines as you go. It's great fun to do so, but there can very easily be major pitfalls in writing this style. One of the most common pitfalls is inconsistency. You've probably seen them in amateur writing before -- the one comment that suddenly makes you stop with, "Wait! I thought this character had blue eyes three chapters ago..." And of course, as a writer, this is the type of mistake I'd like to avoid. However, if I'm creating characters, scenes, and situations as I go, it means that I most likely haven't sat down to think them through carefully.
I have honestly tried to print out character sheets and outline my characters before I write them, but that just doesn't work for me (you know, the ones where you have to decide their whole back story, eye color, favorites, and everything else). My characters tend to form as I write them -- and sometimes, I don't have the same "list of knowledge" for each character (e.g. I don't know each of my character's family trees). That being the case, I just create Word documents which save my pantster-loving life (er, my story).
As soon as I introduce a character in my story, I create a document for him.
Yep, just a name. Then, as I write a little more, I might add something like this:
His character develops more -- an interesting trait or something -- and with every addition I put in my manuscript, I put in my character page. I also jot down anything I think is important for me to remember. Sometimes, I'll add a quote from this character or special phraseology, if applicable.
Here, we must leave my Zeke Thomas example, because this is as far as I've currently developed him. As I continue to write Journey of Choice, and if Zeke continues to show up in the scenes, then his document will grow. And as I continue to write, I have something to go back to, to glance at, to keep me consistent.
One more example before I leave, because this method helps me for more than just characters. Here's my castle plans for my WIP, "Befriending the Beast." I have more rooms floating around in my mind, but Belle hasn't yet entered these rooms, so I haven't quite decided which floor they're on, or what they looks like. When I do decide, you can be sure that it will find its place in this document.
I know there are magnitudes of methods for preserving your ideas as you write. This is just the method that works best for me, but I'd love to hear your side.
How do you develop your characters, scenes, and plots?
Do you use premade outlines and character sheets? Do you plan your characters before you write them out, or do they develop "on their own?" Do you keep a notebook by your laptop? Do you sketch house plans? What is your secret?