Critical Details For Writers To Keep Track Of

Whenever you're writing a story, backstory, or setting history, there are some important details that you need to keep an eye on or else you're likely to end up with some discrepancies and plotholes in your work. Here's a list of these things, so you can pay closer attention and take notes where you need to.

Time. It's important to make sure that you're paying attention to how much time various actions and events would realistically take up, or else you'll end up with weirdnesses like four-day weeks, two-hour nights, and fifteen month pregnancies. Ask yourself how much time the things your characters are doing would realistically take, and account for it. Take notes of when important events and development take place.

Location. It's important to keep track of where everything is and how far it is from each other, or else you'll end up with bizarre and inconsistent travel times, nonsensical routes, and locations mysteriously bouncing around all over the map. Keep notes and/or make a map if you're writing your own world; if you're writing a real-life country or region you're unfamiliar with, do some research into it and take note of where everything is.

How things do and do not work. Whether it's science fiction gadgets, magical creatures, fantastic political systems, or anything that does something in your world, it's good to take note of how they work, how they don't work, and what their upper and lower limitations are. Failing to do this is how you end up with superpowers that never work consistently between stories (or even chapters) and inexplicable contradictions in an alien culture's expressed values. (Setting Rules & Limitations In Your World: Why & How You Need To Do This has more on this topic.)

Chains of cause and effect. Most stories and backstories are ultimately cause and effect chains - this happened and caused this, and because of that, this other thing happened, and because of that... and so on and so forth. Keep these things noted so you don't overlook or contradict them later.

Your characters' primary motivations. Failing to remember your characters' primary motivations can result in some very inconsistent writing and even lead to complete character derailment. This is how you end up with a character who spends the first 60% of the story chasing after one goal, then the remaining 40% chasing after something unrelated or even antithetical for no real rhyme or reason. Remember to keep track of this for every character, not just your protagonists!

Your characters' social connections. Who do they know? How and why do they know them? How do they feel about each other? Write this stuff down so you don't end up contradicting yourself in some way later on.

Their familial connections. Take note of who all your characters are related to and how they are related to them. It's a little awkward having relatives pop up out of nowhere or suddenly drop off the family tree!

What your characters do and do not know. It's always a little awkward when a character suddenly forgets something pretty big, or suddenly just knows something out of the blue. Keep tabs on what your characters know and don't know to avoid this.

Their possessions and wealth. What do your characters own? About much money do they have? It's good to keep track of this so you don't accidentally end up overlooking resources your character should realistically be using at some point, or give your character resources that make no sense, or just end up contradicting yourself.

Where your characters' body parts are. Failing to keep track of this can result in writing your characters into impossible contortions and/or having them perform tasks that would take more limbs than they own. Keeping track of this is especially important for writing fights and intimate scenes!

You might also be interested in:

Character Development Questions
Core Drives: What They Are, And Why Your Characters Need Them
On Plot Structure & Plotting
Plot & Story Development Questions
Stuff You Should Cut From Your Story
Where & How Writers Need To Do The Math

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