Lisa Mangum visited my area on a Utah Humanities Council sponsered presentation, speaking on "Finding Your Voice", or using your imagination in writing. She shared many good tips but today I will focus on a visual aid she used where she mapped out character relationships with two-way arrows. Starting with the main character (Abby) after getting her idea for The Hourglass Door, Lisa looked for a love-triangle relationship. Visualize the MC's name at the top pointing to her ho-hum boyfriend's name at one bottom corner and the exciting, new love interest that enters her life in the other corner. Got it?
Now the story needs more players. The MC needs a couple of girlfriends. two-way arrows connect these named characters. She also has family. More arrows. Perhaps a sister will have dialogue with a friend to whom the MC knows but never deals with. In this case, the arrow only goes from the sister to this friend, but not to the MC. The boyfriends also have companions or family that my enter into the story. As this happens, add them to the relationship storyboard. It is a way of visually seeing who connects with whom and the weight of each character. In Mangum's story, she didn't expect that one of Abby's girlfriends would connect with Dante's antagonist. When it happened, she drew another arrow. This led to Valerie having a greater part in the story than originally planned.
Good stories have complex relationships where characters feel strong emotions. Mappin it out is an aid to accomplish this.
Whether or not you are a visual person like me, I think many writers can benefit from some type of storyboard showing character relationships. I'm going to try it. What do you like to use?