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Set-Up for the Plotting Crash Course

by Kellyn Roth |
October 7, 2016

(WARNING: Spoilers for The Dressmaker’s Secret. May also be minor spoilers for Ivy Introspective. And possibly for At Her Fingertips, though I’m doing the best I can to make sure they stay out! If you see one that shocks you, give me a good yelling at.)

A few things you ought to know before you start reading:

  1. I don’t know what I’m talking about.
  2. I do realize this isn’t the right day for this post.
  3. I’m immensely proud of myself for my achievements. Ignore me if I sound egotistical; Adele and I are working on it.


Excited? I know I am! 🙂

To get started, here is the stuff I gathered together to take with me on this crash (and I do mean it!) course.


My Plotting Supplies List:

  • Two brand-new, never-before-used notebooks
  • Four unsharpened, beautiful, perfect pencils.
  • One hot-pink zebra-striped bag.
  • One pencil sharpener.
  • A little clear plastic bag to hold the pencils and sharpener in.
  • A sharpie (added in later)
  • A pair of nice scissors (added in later)
  • A roll of tape (added in later)
  • A camera to take lots of pictures of my supplies with. 😛

Originally, as you can see, I had some colored pencils and some markers … but I didn’t end up needing them, although I did use them a little before realizing they were a bad idea. Also, I added some things to my plotting list after I did the above photo shoot. I’ll talk about that later on in this post.
I also needed to gather together all the information I could find on At Her Fingertips:


So … yep. Lots of random notebooks and scraps of paper with stuff on At Her Fingertips in them. There is something very beautiful about going into NaNo Prep with merely a plot bunny … or just a vague idea … or even just starting planning originally with intent on NaNo …
With this important step finished, we can move on. (What? I like to be thorough … which is something I literally didn’t realize until my friend pointed it out to me on the phone today … I’m so lame; I never know who I am until other people tell me! XD )
Time to begin!

(This is when I realized that a marker simply wasn’t going to stay on the front of a notebook without smearing … so …)

Yep. The power of sharpie. XD


Here’s what I did:

  1. Put my name, email address, and website on the inside of the cover. Because it belongs to me now. I own it. *fistpump*
  2. Wrote ‘Character List’ at the top of my first notebook. Took an amazing picture of the words ‘Character List.’
  3. Made a list of the characters. (If you’re prepping, by the way, I’ll mention here that it’s always best to make a list of your characters before you do anything with them. I also added their relationship to the MC.)
  4. Also add animals and mentioned people onto that list somewher (you know, if it’s part of a series, and you mention ‘Oh, yeah, the Ryders? Yep, they moved to their farm and they have six characters now. Mm-hmm, they’re the main characters from book one … wait, did I just break the fourth wall?”

More pictures of my progress in the creating of my character list:


This done, it was time to really define who my characters are. I’m big into thorough character development. I do it before I thoroughly develop the plot … and usually more thoroughly than I do the plot in the end.
You see, my characters are always, always, always in the back of my mind. I read poetry and think, “This is something Alice would detest,” or see some beautiful in nature and think, “Ivy would like that.” I say something, and I’m like, “Troy would have said that.”
So … this is the easiest part for me. And I make it a policy to get all the easy stuff out of the way first, bad as that policy may be. 😛

The Most Important Things You Need To Know About Your Characters:

The ‘Big 2 Sentences’ is what I call them. I don’t know if I heard about them somewhere or made them up myself, but I start my characters from these two sentences.

Here are some example ‘Big 2 Sentences’:

Alice Knight, main POV character: Alice is independent, intense, and organized. Her main goal is to marry [read: marry richly] before the Season is out.

Ivy Knight, Alice’s twin sister (and dependent): Ivy is quiet, simple, and empathetic. Her main story goal is to stay as close to Alice as she can, so to enjoy every moment of having Alice ‘all to herself.’

As you can see, first I state three words that describe the character. I never use the same word twice. For instance, if Ivy is quiet, no one else in the story can be quiet, too. Oh, ‘quiet’ can be one of their character traits, but it’s not one of their three main character traits. This challenges me to get more specific. Is Ivy shy, is she thoughtful, is she simply empty-minded? What is it that makes Ivy quiet?
What kind of smart is Nettie? Book-smart? People-smart? Wise-smart? Clever-smart? Nerdy-smart? I never realized before that smart is such a vague term!
And why is Mr. Knight so doggone cheerful? I have yet to come up with a reason … he whistles while he walks, and I have no explanation whatsoever.
Yes, I do realize I let my characters get the best of me time and time again …
Second, I state the character’s main story goal. Not all characters have a main story goal, I realize. In fact, some of the characters on my list don’t even have three words … but only because they’re placeholders (like Cassie’s parents).
However, if the character has a goal (or a reason for being in the story) I put that here.
I didn’t bother go into reasons for being in the story (if I had, I could have said that Ned, Caleb, and Jackie are comedy reliefs, Mrs. Knight is (sorta) the mentor-ish character, etc.). I try to keep to basics for the Big 2. That means characters that aren’t basic characters (such as the O’Connells and Alice’s younger siblings) don’t get much attention right now.
I typed these up on the computer (it’s a much cleaner look, and I love a cleaner look) and then printed them. They only took up one sheet of paper using a tiny font. After that …


After fiddling around with colored pencils and markers, I ended up with this:


But I’m not using colors anymore because of this:


Yep. #embarrassingmomentswhensomethingdidn’tlookascoolasyouthoughtitwould #imsuchadweeb #brownisverydark
But despite the color crisis, this looks pretty cool:


Well, that’s all for today. I’m ready to start filling out character charts, which will be the subject of next week’s post, assuming I can actually get it finished. 🙂
Before we go, I should remind you to …


~Kellyn Roth

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40 Responses

  1. Ooh! That’s so cool! I mean, I’ve already seen the pics but … 😉 😛
    Man, I really need to do more NaNo prep. I’ve been working on it a bit recently but I mainly just like … character development … which isn’t that important … since it’s going to be a rewrite … *wave hands around* Ah, well! So yep.. *snods* So I’m pretty sure I’m going to do Through the Mist. *snods again*

    1. That’s exciting! I always seemed to be reading it with a post-writing headache last year (or whenever it was) … I’ll have to correct the mistake this time. 😉

  2. I need to do more planning. But I’m the kind of person that goes like this…
    In front of desk, pen in hand: Empty. What’s going to happen? Is ANYTHING going to happen? All those brainwaves I had in bed seem so cliche now.
    Well, ha ha, that’s me. But I will use my mind palace now and plot things in my head (who’s going to die next? heh heh…) 🙂

  3. Ooh, this was an awesome post! I love all the color coding and lists and all that awesomeness! Plus, your pictures are fantastic and it looks so professional. *wishes her prep was that cool, hehe*
    Also, I love the Big 2 Sentences idea! That is really awesome and it sounds like it works really well (especially in stories with a lot of characters, so you have to think of good adjectives). I may have to use that sometime…
    Anyway, good luck with your NaNo Prep! It looks great! 😀

    1. Yeah … it took me about two hours just to assemble the blog post … and about the same (or longer) to do all the notebook works, take pictures, etc. *sigh* I don’t think I’ll keep it up from now on!
      I sure hope it works! I haven’t really tested it out yet … XD

      1. Hehe, wow. The post was awesome, though, so I think it was worth it!
        I hope it works too! *needs to plan her novel out more* *nervous laughter*

    1. I need to plan more than I do … but then, I’m definitely a plotter. My first drafts go haywire unless I plan them out. Other people are like, “Yeah, I just started writing … no prob!” and I’m like, “OH MY GOODNESS HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!?!?!”

      1. I’m a plotter that is too eager to start to plot. 😉 I get through the first to chapters fine, and then I’m like . . . “Um . . . Wait . . . What happens now?”

  4. Yep, I’m definitely a pantster compared to all of the work you put into just character development alone! *shamefully hides in a corner*
    I have no idea what I’m doing for NaNo–just a vague concept. And I’ll probably go off of that anyways xDD
    Youre going to do great, Kellyn!

      1. Ha, yeah. That’s what I did last year. I already have my idea for this year, just gotta figure out how to keep the muse with me from now until the end of November. lol.

        1. I do tend to be more excited at the beginning of October than the beginning of November … but I figure lots of candy and caffeine will help that. Although I don’t like coffee very much …

    1. Good for you! I have … very little down, actually, so I’m working from scratch and yet from a huge pile of random notes and ideas in notebooks. I have to decide which ones I want to put in, and … yeah, it’s crazy! 😛

  5. This was a helpful post, thank you! I’ve just started working on NaNo Prep over the last week and I will definitely use some of the things you mentioned. 🙂

  6. Omword… Yeah…. brown… just a tint too much? ;D Awesome stuff, Kellyn!
    I use color coding when I’m editing! I’m editing ‘Seek’ right now and I have a bunch of colored pens. xD It is awesome!

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