This mess of nail stickers is a tactic I’m using for the rewrites of my novel. Before the first draft I put together some detailed character studies, and the decisions they made in that first draft work for them as individuals, but I have a bad habit of making their voices sound the same and then forgetting to describe important things about them that are obvious to me in my head. To fix the problem, my focus for this draft is to make them more distinct. I’ve turned the process into a game.
Step 1: Turn the original character sketches into lists of important things that readers need to understand about each character.
Step 2: Separate groups of important character traits into categories. (e.g. fears, language use quirks, lies he/she/they believe, etc.)
Step 3: Buy a whole pile of ridiculous nail stickers.
Step 4: Write down one kind of sticker beside each character trait (e.g. snowflake, butterfly, star jewel…)
Step 5: Whenever I use one of those character traits in a scene, I mark it on my list and then put the corresponding sticker on one of my nails.
That’s it. That’s the game. Maybe it sounds unnatural, but my characters were already all those things when I was writing the first draft, I just kept leaving it to the reader’s imagination, which would be fine if book readers were mind readers. Hopefully this system works. It seems to be working. Sticker-encrusted fingers crossed.