Monday, March 23, 2015

Creating Relationship Charts for Your Story

Actor Eli Wallach, seen here in in "For Whom The Bell Tolls" on CBS show Playhouse 90 in 1959, has died at age 98, according to reports.
Eli Wallach
via Pinterest
     I invented a chart last week to track my character's relationships.  It was awesome and really helped me with my story.  Here's what I did:

     I made myself a chart with columns and rows.  Each column was titled with the name of a character or group of characters.  For Droben's chart, the columns are titled: Calene, Petura, girlfriend, lords, commoners, rebels.  They are the people who Droben interacts with most in my story, and I want to mark how he sees his relationship with them.

     Here is part of Droben's relationship chart:

Irritated with controlling brother
Amused by greenhorn
Loves her (and others)
He can handle them.
Some have very real complaints.  Should be respected but not allowed to rule you.  Treat with respect and they will follow you
Bah!  Bunch of talk.
Feels that they are at peace
Eager to teach
Irritated with her

Irritated with controlling brother
Wanting acceptance by her
(Repeat cycle many times)

Disturbed by brother’s behavior
Irritated with what he sees as her religiosity

Mad at everybody
Mad at everybody.

Encouraging her talent

Mad at everybody


     So, let's just look at Calene's column.  It shows a timeline of how Droben feels about Calene.  First, he just irritated with him.  Then there is a time when Droben thinks everything is going well between him and his brother.  Then he's irritated again.  Then Droben is disturbed by something he sees in Calene.  Then, for his own personal reason, Droben is mad at everybody.  He's mad at Calene, but only because Droben suddenly sees the whole world in a dark light.  In the end, he views Calene with a sort of calm resignation.

     Right now, I don't have the columns lined up with each other on a timeline.  Petura's column is longer, not because it takes more time but because he goes through more changes in his relationship with her.

     The fun thing is that when I make Droben's column in Calene's chart (in other words, how Calene views his relationship with Droben) it is completely different.  It's pretty fun to see.

     Aside from the fun, though, it helps me to keep people "in character" in a realistic way.  Calene may come in with a smile and be greeted grumpily by Droben.  That's easy for me to write because I know that Calene is pleased with Droben's performance and that Droben is irritated with the way Calene is controlling him.

     I also know that Droben goes through drastic emotional rollercoasters.  He swings very quickly from irritation to approval and back again.  Calene, on the other hand, tends to build slowly from one to the least in his external expression.  Making this chart helps me keep track of that, making sure that they keep their patterns.

     What do you think?  Want to try it with your own characters?

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