Field Notes for Writers – A Hands-on Review

July 5, 2008

Recently arriving at LitCentral’s office was a package from our friends at Field Notes. The company, based out of Chicago and Portland, produces a quality memo book that rivals such competitors as Moleskine. There is genius hidden behind the marketing of this product, as it has taken on a cult-like following in a very short amount of time.


Inspired by vintage farmers’ planting books and other practical, historic, mostly-midwestern American design.

Field Notes Three-Pack ($9.95) includes the following features:

    * Three 48-page memo books.
    * Each 3-1/2″ wide by 5-1/2″ tall.
    * Rugged three-staple saddle-stitch process.
    * Perfect 3/16″ (5mm) graphed paper.

Bonus goodies are included with every order and may very.

Field Notes are a very durable notebook made for anyone who needs something handy and accessible to capture the abundant overflow of their brain droppings.  But for the purpose of Founders’ Blog we’re going to explore the benefits of Field Notes with regard to writers.

Screenwriters, Writers and Field Notes
Writers don’t just have ideas for stories, they have ideas for characters within those stories, and dialogue, and locations, and subplots, and so on… What I like about Field Notes is the 48-pages are a small but significant commitment to a particular subject or idea.  With Field Notes you’re not presented with a giant notebook that may end up collecting dust because you have no idea how to begin filling so many pages. In the past I’ve been guilty of buying expensive journals and filling them with umpteen different subjects that eventually end up lost because there’s no search button or sequential order!

For example, let’s say you need to develop your protagonist or heroine.  As the writer you need to know that character inside and out.  You can dedicate one Field Note (48 pages or 96 two-sided) to better understanding your protagonist.  Below I’ve outlined how I would approach this creatively.

On the first page fill in the following details:
Full Name:
Sexual Orientation:
Education Level:
1st Language:
Astrological Sign:

Use the rest of the Field Note pages by labeling every third – fourth page with the following headings and subheadings:

1. Physical Appearance
2. History
•    Hometown
•    Health
•    Family Dysfunctions
3. Occupation
4. Beliefs
•    Religion
•    Philosophy
•    Political
5. Idiosyncrasies, Habits & Phobias
6. Favorites
•    Color
•    Food
•    Sayings
•    Book
•    Music
7. Attitudes Re:
•    Other Cultures
•    Money
•    Country
•    Job
•    Technology
•    Environment
•    Opposite/Same Gender
8. Family
•    Mom & Dad
•    Siblings
•    Grandparents
•    Spouse/Partner/Significant Other
•    Children
•    Pets
9. Friends
10. Greatest
•    Fear…
•    Strength…
•    Weakness…
•    Challenge…
11. Self-Perception
12. Goals
•    Always wanted to do…
•    Always wanted to be…
•    Always wanted to see…
13. Priorities

Storing Field Notes
You can bundle Field Notes according to subject or project.  They fit perfect in CD boxes or keepsake boxes which you can label with the title of your project.

You have to respect a company with good customer relations and Field Notes is open to suggestions. Take a Three-Pack for a test drive, and then slap down your $.02 on how you think they can make this product even better!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

BoWrite July 18, 2008 at 2:48 pm

I actually have and use Field Notes, but it never occurred to me to use them in the manner in which you outlined in the article. After I read it I thumped myself upside the head with a “Duh!”. Thanks for pointing out something I should have been doing.



BoWrite August 24, 2008 at 11:45 am

I tried the character breakdown suggestion almost verbatim. I just carried my Field Note around with me for about a month creating this character.

Know what? It’s freaking awesome.

I know my character so much better having taken the advice of this article. I sort of walked around in his skin for 30 days and kept his diary (Field Notes). This has given my character so many more layers. So glad I found this blog. Thanks Robin!


Robin August 26, 2008 at 10:34 am

BoWrite: “Know what? It’s freaking awesome.”

Ha! That’s excellent! Glad you came back to offer an update. The more you know about your characters the richer they become.


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