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April 6, 2011 / Chersti Nieveen

how to create a character binder or THE BINDER OF DOOM

So I’m a neurotic planner when it comes to my books. And possibly about life, but let’s disregard that for the moment.

So I have this BINDER OF DOOM and it is my life. Well, the life of my TLO story (the one for Invisible is blue). It’s quite thick, and has all of the backstory and pictures and everything I need.

Are you jealous of my Binder? You should be . . . do you now want your own binder of doom? Okay fine, I’ll let you in on how I do it.

Tips on binder

I like to use a 3-ring binder so I can either hole-punch the pages or use plastic sheet protectors. I have recently become a huge fan of the sheet protector way, since it . . . well, protects my sheets. Ingenious, I know. It also allows me to rearrange things as I need to.

I have a page for each character (sometimes 2 pages) and I have pictures I’ve found that look like my protagonist, or pictures I’ve drawn. The page also has two sections. One describing their physical attributes, and the other describing their personality. It’s nice to have both of those things concrete on the page, because I am such a visual learner that once I see it on the page, it’s concreted in my mind. And that way I can look up of my protagonist has blue or purple eyes.

I print off any research that is super important and put it in the binder. That way I can refer to it over and over again. I do a lot of research for my stories so I can build a credible society. Research on building designs, furniture, food, personality types, ect.

I also have my original notes for my story in this binder, though that’s more for my own viewing pleasures.

I keep my chapter by chapter story outline in here. I have a short and long version, though the short version has a list of things that need to change in each chapter (I update it as I go along). That’s really helpful, because I can open my binder up and know exactly what chapter I need to work on and where my focus should go. I also keep notes of my discarded ideas — like if I wanted to make a change and it didn’t work out — and I save that in case I can use it in a later draft.

I write up important things for my world and keep the notes here. I have Rules for the Bad Guys in here, as well as their goals listed. And tons of other fun things, including building designs and pictures.

Add anything else you think I’m missing here. Basically, whatever will help you as you are writing your book.

And now you, too, can have your own shiny new BINDER OF DOOM. [dun dun dun] Just don’t let the BINDER OF DOOM take up all your time, or else you won’t get any writing done!

Now go! Enjoy the BINDER OF DOOM in all it’s thickness.

You do think it’s thick, right? And does anyone else do this thing of madness, or is it just me? And should I add a shiny unicorn to the front?

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9 Comments

  1. Anne / Apr 6 2011 9:13 am

    Great post! No doom – unless organization is doom? It’s a binder of absolute story goodness. Open in case of emergency 😀

    I keep one, too. Mine also has prints of my characters and pictures of setting places…a mini scrapbook for me to stay on track. And somehow, there’s a color theme involved, now that I’m flipping through. Hmmm…..

  2. Karen / Apr 6 2011 9:26 am

    I just started one, kinda. I think that at this point it might take me a lot of time…but I’m slowly starting to print things out and such. Next book…I’ll DOOM it up. 🙂

  3. Joel Smith / Apr 6 2011 11:22 am

    I don’t have a binder of doom, just a SPREADSHEET OF DOOM!!! It’s massive and has tiny writing all over it. It’s my outline extraodinaire.

  4. Greg B / Apr 6 2011 12:53 pm

    I’ve seen you mention this binder of doom before–it’s nice to get an idea for how other people do their planning. I do something similar, but I keep it all in a word document; it lets me copy and paste from the story I’m writing into the ‘doom’ file, as I’m calling it now, so I can remember exactly how I described something/someone.

    I know you’ve mentioned stuff about plotting and outlining before, but I’m always interested in hearing more about that. I do it myself, but I still wish my plotting/outlining were more effective. Future post? Also, I’m fascinated by the “Rules for the Bad Guys” idea–what is this? It sounds great.

  5. Chersti Nieveen / Apr 6 2011 1:10 pm

    Anne – That is so funny. I consider it my binder of doom because anyone who looks at my spoilers is doomed. j/k! But that’s pretty awesome how yours is color-coordinated. 🙂

    Karen – You brought up a great point – it’s more a collection of things you research along the way and keep track of it. But if you were to go back and make one, it really is more of a waste of time at that point. Of course, it might help some people, but I’ve personally found it’s just good to have one from the start. Some people also just keep them in notebooks.

    Joel – LOVE your outline!!

    Greg B – I actually have to confess that for my most frequent used documents, I pull them up in the word doc on the computer screen. I did do a post on how I outline, and I think I may do a follow up post in the future with a broader approach. And the “Rule for the Bad Guys” picture shown there: those are the goals as outlined by the baddies in my book (accomplished and still striving towards) so that their objectives come across as clear. They aren’t actually mentioned in the book, but it really gives focus to their actions.

  6. Leisha Maw / Apr 7 2011 7:59 am

    The Binder Of Doom looks awesome! You are so organized. I have a notebook of doom but it’s not as cool and doesn’t deserve caps. Maybe someday it will graduate to the big league and earn the caps but for now…

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  7. Julie Daines / Apr 7 2011 9:28 am

    I totally have one too! One for each book. Only I keep mine in those composition notebooks. Any pictures I use for my writing are pinned on the bulletin boards surrounding my work desk. I’m a visual person too!

  8. Shallee McArthur / Apr 7 2011 11:30 am

    I don’t have a binder of doom, but I have a file folder of doom! I tend to keep everything on my computer, so I put my research, character info, world building info, pictures, etc. in labeled files on my laptop. I refer to it, add to it, and change it CONSTANTLY as I write– it’s definitely helpful to have all the things you need in one place!

  9. Chersti Nieveen / Apr 7 2011 2:07 pm

    Leisha – Oh you deserve caps now! Anyone who has it together like that deserves caps!!

    Julie – I just love the composition notebooks, and I actually write down my ideas in those before it goes into my official (and neat) binder 🙂

    Shallee – That’s amazing, and I am so impressed you keep track of it all. I try that sometimes, and I’m always like: where did I put that thing again? lol

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