The Writing Life: Eyes of Blue – Or Maybe Green?

Eyes of Blue – Or Maybe Green?

by Michelle Janene

After writing for a while most writers can run into the problem of confusing their characters or forgetting important information about them.

For instance, when Sally was introduced in chapter 1 she had shining blue eyes that looked like a mountain lake. Somewhere about chapter 22, her eyes were green as emeralds, and by the closing chapters they are deep blue like the sky before the sunsets.

Yep, been there, done that.

What about this one? John in chapter two suddenly became Don in chapter 17.

Or Sarah worked for Mr. Smith in the beginning and Mary worked for Mr. Jones. Somewhere along the way Sarah switched employers and Mary disappeared completely.

Then there is the issue of having a string of characters whose names all start with the letter M.

I’ve done or seen all of the above.

When we have many characters in multiple novels, how is a writer to keep them all straight and consistent?

Style Sheets

This is an editor’s tool to help check for consistency. I learned about it while taking an online editing course and loved the idea so much I now create one for each of my novels as I write them. I keep this document minimized at the bottom of my screen while I write. I can open it anytime I describe a character. Each character is listed alphabetically by first name, so at a glance I can see when I am creating too many characters with similar names. I can check their specifics so eye and hair color don’t change, and no one looses or gains five inches.

Style Sheets have become invaluable as I work. I can go back to old ones and see if I have a pet name that ends up as a leading character in multiple books. I can quickly find the tailor’s name from chapter 3 when Mary goes to visit him again in chapter 35.

I also use the miscellaneous notes at the bottom of the style sheet to keep track of any special quirks found in my current manuscript. This can be a list off elements for world building like descriptions of cities or the government in the new realm. It can also help in remembering unique spellings that are distinctive to the world of that book. A style sheet allows me to trace important details needed for consistency.

Try it out and see if style sheets might work for you as well. Many style sheets can be found online with a simple search. Here is an example of one I used. This is a blank sheet you can use.


About the Author

Michelle Janene lives and works in Northern California. Most days she blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind. She is a devoted teacher, a dysfunctional housekeeper, and a dedicated writer. She released her first novella Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015. God’s Rebel came out in 2016, followed by Rebel’s Son and Hidden Rebel in 2017. She has been published in “Guide Post Magazine” and several anthologies. She leads two critique groups and is the founder of Strong Tower Press—Indie solutions for indie authors.

You can find her at Strong Tower Press, Turret Writing, on Facebook, Twitter, and on Goodreads.

You can read Michelle’s “Writing Life” column on the 3rd Tuesday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.

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