I’ve been meaning to drop this before now, but I’ve honestly been using it, and it spurred a whole flurry of writing activity.
I was privileged to catch a panel featuring award-winning writer/editor Marv Wolfman. Marv is the writer/creator of Blade, Black Cat, Bullseye, New Teen Titans, Deathstroke, (and many more), and has a successful writing career that spans over fifty years. Any time you can sit at the feet of a master, you should take it, and I’m so glad I did.
The title of the panel was “Writing 101: What to Think About Before You Start Writing” and Marv shared this awesome tidbit. When he begins to craft a story, he creates a chart for himself detailing how each major character feels about each other. I’ll give you a mockup here with four of the Avengers:
This helps you stay on track with character interactions, and also reminds you to sew in foreshadowing where necessary. Why does Natasha have such foreboding about having to go talk to “The big guy?” Steve and Tony need to get in each other’s face to set the stage for a coming civil war, so we need their irritation with each other at the forefront.
Another thing Marv mentioned was doing a similar chart with each character’s secrets. Some won’t have any. Some may only have secrets from certain others. How they got those secrets, how they’re revealed, who reveals them and why – that’s how a story unfolds. For instance:
You’ll notice Steve Rogers has no secrets. They guy isn’t big on subterfuge. Everything is black or white with him. Thor isn’t sharing with anyone all the potential threats out there in the rest of the universe because he’s so confident he can personally protect Midgard. Natasha is hiding her attraction for Bruce early on, and then hiding her forced sterility. I put that in parentheses because it’s not revealed until midway through the second movie, but it colors her interactions. When Bruce rocked that baby cradle and talked about how he can’t always get what he wants during their first encounter, she filed that away as a potential relationship issue. And her interactions with Clint’s kids take on a whole new level with that secret as a subtext.
This has been enormously helpful, especially if you’re looking at a story arc that moves through multiple books. It’s a great writing exercise and I know you’ll find it as invaluable as I do.