Do you remember mom checking up on you while you’re out and about with friends? Well it is time put on your mom jeans because that is the attitude you need to gain for your characters in every book. I’m not talking about telling your characters to be back home before the streetlights come on- I mean you have to know the whereabouts of each character in your story the entire time. It would be a shame to forget that one of your “children” exists.
Even if you don’t realize it at first, because you’re focused on building a story, your readers will notice that so-and-so is not present anymore. You don’t want Billy to vanish off the face of the earth with no rhyme or reason. Making a note in your timeline that Billy is grounded in his bedroom for the next five chapters works, that way we know that Billy didn’t just up and vanish and that way you will remember to bring him back later on in the book if needed.
My timelines go chapter by chapter according to the characters in each book (example at the end of the article). Character timelines can create a more solid understanding in character motives throughout the story. If Shelly’s determined to get a job, you can have her pop up in and out of the story at cafes, depressed about her bad luck in finding employment. Additional knowledge about what Shelley has going on in her life can prompt a scene or dialogue, or create the illusion that other characters in the story have lives outside of the plot. It’s a neat trick to use and makes your world believable. It takes from only a few minutes to a few hours to plan and it is a changeable element!
Using my character timelines, I got to figure out the character development of each character by the time my main character runs into them again. Having all characters revolve around our main character is not only limiting your world, but it is unrealistic. When you go about the world, people are on their own personal story, so treat it like that. Make the outline for each character’s own book in your story.