How Creating To-Do Lists For Your Characters Helps You Plot

How Your Characters’ To-Do Lists Can Help You Plot Your Book


Writers Write creates and shares resources for writers. In this post, we show you how your characters’ to-do lists can help you plot your book.

What Is A To-Do List?

Definition: ‘a list of things to-do’

How Your Characters’ To-Do Lists Can Help You Plot Your Book

If you create to-do lists for your four main characters, you will halve your plotting problems. Every character needs a story goal. Creating to-do lists will help you define their story goals.

You will also learn more about your characters when you do this. What do they want? Why do they want to achieve them? They may add an item you never expected.

The seemingly unimportant items on the list can be used for sub-plots or for introducing conflict when you have dull scenes.

  1. love interest may want to ‘teach in Japan’. When this becomes a possibility or a reality, you can upset your protagonist’s equilibrium.
  2. A confidant may want to ‘quit job and go back to school’. When this happens, your protagonist has to deal with a support system that may be changing.

Feature It

You could use your protagonist’s to-list as a feature in your book. You could use it as a prologue or as the first chapter of your book. You could let the character check off the items as the story progresses. You could show the list as an epilogue with items ticked off – or not.

How Your Characters' To-Do Lists Can Help You Plot Your Book

Tips For To-Do Lists For Your Characters

  1. Choose the four main characters and make lists for them.
  2. Create the lists for the timeline of your novel. If the novel spans a long time, create a list for what they want to achieve by the end of the novel.
  3. Limit the number of items to 10 to help you focus.
  4. Create tangible lists. Be specific. For example: Don’t say: ‘Feel better about myself.’ Do say: ‘Lose 20 kg.’ or ‘Stop saying yes to everybody.’
  5. Write the list through the eyes of the character – not as the author of the book.

Have fun with your lists and use them to help you define story goals and plot your novels.

TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course or join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

© Amanda Patterson

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