Has this ever happened to you? You’re reading over a work-in-progress and discover you’ve used the name of a character from a previous story for your leading man in the current one?

When this happened to me, I decided it was time to make a cast of characters chart. You can be as detailed or as basic as you like.

Mine generally start out with names, physical descriptions, how they’re related to other players in the story and usually at least one thing that sets them apart. Maybe it will be a certain word they use in conversation, or a particular fear they have. It could be an eating habit, or an obsession with pets, cars, gambling, etc.

After I get the general idea of the character down, I let the rest of the information for each one unfold with the story.

The place I always start is with the name. Since I write Texas-based stories, I like to use double names so popular in the South.

There are lots of websites for names, but I find most of mine by reading obituaries. That’s right, obits. I find old, double names I love by reading the survivor list. How else would I find great names like Hassie Viola, Claudie Lee or Huler Mae?

Most of the time, I visually cast my main characters with actors, so I cut their pictures out and include them in the notebook.

Some writers make elaborate story boards or collages. I just keep a small spiral.

For a really detailed chart by Rebecca Sinclair, go to www.eclectics.com/articles/character.html

Do you do something similar? What works for you? I’d love to know.

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