Like stone under an unrelenting waterfall, sometimes our memories erode under the flow of our stories, making it hard to recall certain details we'll need to revisit later in our work.


Have you ever forgotten what eye color you gave a particular character? I havejust recently, in fact. I can’t count how many times I’ve given a character certain features only to turn around and either forget what they were or unknowingly change them five chapters later. This is especially true for supporting characters that dont show up a lot. For more important characters, this is rarer and only happens when I havent yet created concept art of them, which I dont always have time to do. Now I make a point to keep track of such details, so the dilemma of forgetting a characters eye color is not as big a deal as it used to be.

Discrepancies like this are easy mistakes to make, and they can severely hinder our readers’ enjoyment of our stories if they slip by us in the editing process. It isn’t always enough to rely on our memory. As sharp as our minds may be, sometimes it’s just hard to remember certain details in the heat of a writing splurge or when were having an off day. This is especially true after revisions where information has been changed once or twice. I think a lot of the consistency errors I’ve found in books were introduced during the revisions phase. It’s just a guess, but I’ve noticed that’s the case in my own books. I’ll change something and then forget that I changed it or forget to change all instances of it. Microsoft Words find and replace features help weed these errors out, but even they have their limits.

Even before I started using a computer to draft my stories, I created a system of recording important information so that I could quickly refer to it while writing. It was better than leafing back through the book to double-check the details. I wrote down each character’s name on a piece of paper (or on post-it notes, which I still occasionally use) and added their descriptions, ages, and any other traits I could think of. I kept this page in the same binder I used to hold my work-in-progress, so it was always accessible while I was writing and I could update it if needed. It worked great, so when I started using a laptop, I did something similar, only I used Microsoft OneNote for the list. Now I use Words comment feature because it allows me to jump right to specific parts of the work so I dont have to rewrite the descriptions.

You could even use a system like this to keep track of specific settings and their descriptions. Ive also created a separate list of page numbers pertaining to important events and anything else I knew I would mention again or otherwise need to double-check later in the story. When it comes to staying on top of geographical locations in terms of placement and names, I think maps are most helpful. If you choose to create them yourself, they can be as crude or as detailed as you want them to be. More than anything, they just need to be legible, scaled accurately, and easy to get to.

For me, Microsoft OneNote and Word have been game-changers in helping me organize and locate information, but all that matters is that you use a system that works for you, be it on paper or using some kind of software like Microsoft Office or Scrivener. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Scrivener. I’m still learning about it through the free trial I downloaded, but it’s pretty helpful from what I can tell. I look forward to using it one day. If you have other methods of keeping track of data that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to drop them in the comments.