Writing Trick for Remembering Details

Writing is hard enough. Then you have an ongoing condition that you have remember… and inevitably forget. (or maybe you don’t. I definitely do.) Sure, it’s the kind of thing that editing is for, but it can cause some major pitfalls.

Even minor things, like the main character sustaining an injury, can snowball into a big Oopsie. For example, let’s say the main character has an arrow in the back. It’s okay if you don’t constantly mention it. She might forget the pain while in the heat of battle. But then you have her sit in a high-backed cushiony chair without removing the arrow or receiving any form of treatment for any injuries. Let’s say that you make a point of not healing anything. And let’s say that since you’ve already forgotten about the arrow in her back, you describe her sitting in the chair with comfort and relief.


Pretty much everything is fixable. However, I have a trick that will help keep immediately relevant story facts on your mind while writing, so this kind of thing doesn’t happen. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than simply trusting your memory.

Get a pen that you don’t use for anything else (so you don’t run out of ink) and a stack of post-it notes. I prefer the ones that aren’t freakin’ tiny, but if you write small and have to keep track of a lot of things, then you might want the bitsy ones. Higher up on the list would be getting varicoloured ones, again if you anticipate a lot of must-remembers cropping up.

Then just make a note whenever something happens that you’ll need to recall for an extended period of time. For me, this is a must whenever someone is injured or if there’s an animal around. (I’m terrible at pets.) Some might also like to use this for keeping track of character’s looks and clothes, especially for characters who change clothes and/or hair.

Once you’ve written up your note, whether longhand or your own version of shorthand, stick it to your desk, monitor, anywhere that it will be in your peripheral vision. If you’re worried about cluttering your view of your writing space, then put together some facsimile of a cork board. (I am too cheap to get a real cork board. Also I hate hanging things on the wall in flats and we don’t have a house yet.)

Important note: I know that there’s a Windows program that mimics post-it notes, but I do NOT recommend it for this. The point of this method is to have your reminders in very quick view. I don’t know about anyone else, but my desktop is never in easy view. Alt-Tab-ing is really disruptive to my writing. It’s also much easier to remember to turn your head to catch sight of a NEON PINK post-it than to look at the desktop.

One thought on “Writing Trick for Remembering Details

  1. I have another trick that might be worth discussion.

    Whenever I introduce a long-term sort of change to a character, I try to use “graded” changes so that rather than remembering *if* I’ve introduced a change to a character, I only have to recall the “grade” of a change.

    For example, if I’m grading the tiredness of a character, then I need only check back to see *how* tired they are. Labored breathing? Spotty vision? Dragging feet? Or maybe I’m tracking their comfort level.

    Since I have a hard time remembering anything that changes about a character that isn’t a handheld object they are literally holding, I find tracking things on a scale a tremendously helpful alternative.


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